Second Life: My Relationship with Thrifting

I slathered some second hand shopping on my wounds today. The last time we spoke, my grandmother asked me if I’d “scored anything good” at the thrift stores lately. I blathered on about the red wool jacket I’d scored six years ago at the Super Goodwill in Eugene. Nothing too good lately. But today, I would make up for lost time. I’d taken an intentional day off work for some R & R. A born n’ bred thrifter, this was my version.

It is my belief that we are all hopelessly addicted to something. If second hand splurges are my poison, so be it. Inside St. Vinneys, beyond the Christmas décor, the pieces started jumping out at me. There was a pair of camel-colored suede cowgirl boots. I tried them on. They were too much. Too costumey. Other suede booties swirled in front of my vision. Christmas music clouded my ears. How are all the boots my size? I backed away from the booties, but not before settling on two pairs. One, a lived-in leather wedge to go with my wedding dress in the springtime. Two, a basic chestnut brown ankle bootie. I reminded myself it was justified. Second to our homes we like live in our clothing, right? And not to mention how good second hand shopping is for the earth. I would give these booties a second life.

A man who was in step with me when we walked through the double doors, now shuffled past me with a blazer draped over one arm, and holding a golf driver in the other. He didn’t look at me then, and he didn’t look at me now. His eyes were glazed over similar to the other mid-day, mid-week thrifters. If there were drinks here, I’m sure we’d all have much to share, and much in common. At least our affinity for thrifting.

The elderly thrifters are my favorite. When we last spoke, my grandmother told me her caregiver, the one who handles all her medical stuff, has been taking her thrifting as a treat after her appointments with specialists. Cacti and that same, familiar blue and white Goodwill sign welcome her when she arrives. “Hi, welcome in,” I can imagine the clerk saying to her.

“They pull out all the good stuff and put it up front now. It kind of takes the hunt out of it,” she told me over the phone.

“I know, I know,” I responded in the same tone of voice she would have used, with a hint of a southern drawl.

As my grandmother grows older, I am slowly turning into her. We are in step.

I ignore the impulse to buy a baby blue fleece sweater–Champion brand–even though it is in my color. I have a lot of colors. Black. Red. Lavender. Green. Instead, I scored a brand-new pair of Old Navy mittens, violet, still with the tags on, for $1.99.

Then I decided I need a new, used wallet. The one I unearthed has an exposed window for drivers’ license located on the outside of the wallet. Perfect.

In that section, a small backpack with a blue and white print spoke to me. I swear it literally said my name. So I didn’t even question that purchase, just tossed it in the basket. It was 25% off.

On the other side of the store, in the jeans section, I asked the clerk if the fitting rooms were reopened yet. Having them closed was pandemic protocol. She said no, and they would probably never reopen again due to theft. I eyed the fitting rooms, caution tape surrounded them. I knew better than to stay in the jeans section if I couldn’t try them on.

I have a couple firm rules for thrifting: 1. Try everything on. 2. If it’s not yes, it’s no. (The second one is actually a bit of dating advice I’d gotten from a friend, but I’ve found it applies here too.)

Four long sleeve shirts later and I was up at the counter finally checking out. The clerk didn’t know it, but I was going to be trying the four shirts on outside my minivan to ensure that they were the right fit (by the grace of the thrifting gods, they were). I even have a superstition around this: if I notice a dress or a shirt fall off a hanger, I place it back where it belongs, with hopes that the thrifting gods might bestow good luck on me in return for my good deed.

My total came to $59.90. I always act like it’s good luck when the total comes to “just” under something; as in my just under $60.00. “Alright, I kept it under sixty!” I chirped to the clerk.

It was something my grandmother would have said, as was complimenting the clerk on her red blouse, and asking if it was designed by Carole Little.

I’ll have to call my grandmother now and tell her what I scored: two pairs of boots, one pair to go with my wedding dress, one pair for work, a new, used wallet, a blue-and-white bohemian-esque backpack, that can double as a purse, and four basic, long sleeve shirts for winter. A lot has changed since the “fill a bag for a dollar” days of thrifting. But the closeness I feel to my grandmother when doing this simple ritual is one-hundred percent priceless.

Love,

Mama Bird

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