The little bell clangs against the dirty door as we enter in. The smell is strong, old, memories, and mildew, all tinged with coffee. A cheery modern tune contrasts with the feeling of years that hits me as I enter this thrift shop. I step up to the shelves, pulling off a piece of someone’s life, digging through their forgotten favorite flannels, tea cups that lips touched, and fingering old castoff letters from loved ones. Light filters through the dust as I move a box to take a closer look at an old, wooden highchair, the same light reaches through the multi-colored beads, shining broaches, and giant pendants swaying from their hook, perhaps lightly with the music. There is a bit of magic in these places.
The friendly chatter of other seekers and the workers reaches my ears through the little cramped, jam packed isles of boots, porcelain figurines, and utensils. The light is hauntingly dark in some corners full of obsolete appliances and old cutting boards and glaringly fluorescent in others, illuminating garish orange pans and faded paintings with broken frames. To the eyes willing to see this place is full of buried treasure. I carefully sift through the piles of lacy, hand-embroidered linens and marvel at the loving care of their creators. The kaleidoscope of color and dusty beauty, the air of sharing of lives through time cocoons me.
This is reminiscent of what I am privileged to do each day, entering one of these treasure troves with my children. We spread out the past by shaking out our English geography book, map, and digging into Shakepeare’s Henry V, peering at stone castles online. Bright eyes search, dig down through the piles of stories, and beauty, no one knowing what treasure each person is mining, thrifting forever. The lives of others turned and pages savored that tie us to others long ago. Not unlike that old pitcher with a little crack that I admire on a crooked shelf. The music, meals, and art share permeate, send a shard into our hearts, flow in and out of our conversation, touching a cord. It reminds me of the knitted or crocheted items piled in second hand shops. Why are they called second-hand anyway? Truly these well-loved objects are often of higher quality and their beauty is in the knowledge of the love and care that went into creating them. Yes, we do have the grime and filth to scrub away in life and on our treasures, but that’s half the excitement of the hunt, being able to see through grit to the shine and heart of something.
Having such an eclectic selection, such a surprising, joyful array to pick from – why would anyone choose the cookie-cutter and sterile? If they are able, why wouldn’t anyone choose the richness and thick, juicy bits of dreams to choose from? All of our senses engaged, our minds swirling with color, traditions, handmade, and slow made. These are mellowed through time. The rainbow afghan, vintage books inscribed by a loving grandmother to grandchild, the in-depth biography, interesting math pattern, and sweet, soft poem. All of this digging, dropping the wooden bucket into the well of robust life, looms large – we are gifted many interests, thoughts, ideas, and bits that spill up and over. They carry us through life and become a gift we can give.
We feel inspired with this special something tucked under our arm and carried out into the world. Our thrifting and learning together collide in an awareness of others past, present, and gives us hope and light in the dark future. It births in us a humility and greatness of soul touching the past, being here and now, and our fragrance flowing into the future to come. We identify with those who used the kerosene lantern with it’s brilliant light lit, we create music to be shared because we know how much the music lifted us, we curl up in a blanket and commiserate with those pioneers who built this life one back-breaking freezing moment at a time. These dusty places and this piled shelves are really museums of life and beauty for the taking. Taste and see. Eat and be filled. Treasure awaiting, dormant and expectant. All we have to do is reach out and partake. A gift to fill and to be spilled.