Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Kindness Like No Other

Thrift shopping is like doing a crossword puzzle. It engages the mind. During yesterday evening’s sweep at one of my favorite stores, I spied a pair of Javanese Shinta puppets in the glass cabinet. The diversity of items in a thrift store presents so many questions and like our ancient ancestors, we become inquisitive foragers. Though I’ve never seen a performance, I immediately knew the origins of those beautiful hand-carved wooden puppets with long graceful arms. I also knew they would fascinate my youngest daughter as a holiday present. I’ve already thrifted a clarinet for her to play with, why not Shinta puppets?

While waiting for the cashier to unlock the cabinet, a woman waiting at counter struck up a conversation. She is a grandmother and we talk about dramatic and imaginative play. I use my standard line that imaginative play is not something bought in the aisles of a chain toy store. She chuckles and tells me about the dress up trunk she built up over the span of two generations for her daughters and granddaughters. It’s full of bridal veils and old prom dresses and her children love to put on plays with these props. As a mother, I have a deep respect for her ingenuity in such a commercial-driven world. Two of her granddaughters are coming for the holidays and upon announcing felt a need to make certain the dress up trunk was still available.

I tell her about the Shinta puppets and hope they are in my price range. They’re brand new with tags. (Not everything in the thrift store is used.) The cashier unlocks the cabinet and we dig in. The dolls are too pricey for me and I sigh ready to move on. My new friend pulls me aside to whisper, “I know they are expensive but I have a senior discount if that would help.” Touched, I say no, but thank her. Would this have happened in any other store where people are elbowing the other to get to items first, that Bargain Rage I referred to in the October 27th posting?

This is an empathy I’ve only found in only thrift stores. Once in the check out line I complimented the woman before me on her score of a huge bag of paper umbrellas for under two bucks. She turned, “Do you need these?” I mentioned my friend and I are hosting an Asian themed birthday party for our daughters. Without hesitation, she held out the bag, “You take them. You need them.” At first I felt horrible, “No. No. I was only complimenting your find.” She replies, “I do a lot of crafts and thought I might someday have use for them but you need them now. So take them.”

Me? Yes, I’ve forgone items to others. One was a pair of shoes for my older daughter. She can be fickle on what I buy for her and the woman in front of me loved the shoes so I knew they would be worn. I also gave a copy of David Sedaris' new release to a woman who's friend's birthday was the next day.

So what did I score last night? A coffee machine. Why? We needed it - ours died two days ago. For under $8, I bought a Braun 12-cup programmable coffee maker with all kinds of bells most never bother to use. It will likely last as long as our previous one, at one-sixth the price. As I sit here with my cup of joe, I give this simple, daily item a double thumbs up. And, I like my coffee a lot. Oh, if anyone is in need of a 12 cup coffee carafe, well it's probably on a shelf at a certain store waiting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A coworker used to say, "What goes around comes around."

Unfortunately, sometimes well-meaning, but friendly shoppers ... or the volunteers running the thrift store ... come up to me with a treasure and say something like, "This would be just right for you!"

Usually it's not my taste, so I find an acceptable reason for not buying it, "Oh, thank you, but this is too small for me." Occasionally, though, I have bought something just to please those sweet ladies. And occasionally, they've offered something that IS right on the mark!

And the funniest thrifting story I have:

My teenage daughter was church basement thrifting with me. She was dressed in black jeans with saftety pins making a pattern down the seams.

The tiny old ladies running the thrift thought those safety-pinned jeans were the coolest look! Those grandmas spent a good 3 or 4 minutes holding up the line and talking to my DD about how she made that design. [The jeans were very cool, but I didn't expect the grannies to appreciate it!]