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Monday, September 6, 2010

It’s Just Trash, But It Makes Us Happy

 Goodwill had another Grand Opening this weekend.   
The glorious even took place at McKellips and Center in Mesa, AZ.  It was a full house.  I love Kelly’s description.

“It was a complete frenzy. People were loading their carts like everything was free. I asked one of the workers if there was a special sale- 50% off tag or something. "Not on a grand opening," she stated. I watched as customers loaded avocado colored mixing bowls, rusted iron pans, ice cream shaped dessert bowls and metal pineapple tchotchkes into their carts.”
Now that’s some really great writing, Kelly.  

Seriously, I know it’s just stuff, so why do we do it.  Why does it make us so happy?

Is it the thrill of the hunt?
That fact that its one of a kind?
Are we really that sentimental?
Do we love it because its cheap (sometimes)?

While shopping with Reef and Eden, I took some mental notes of the trash that made other people happy.

A gray-haired man with an English accent walks up to his wife and says “There’s nothing in this store I need but this Cheshire cat.”  He then proceeds to hold out a small glass figurine of a sleeping cat.  His wife’s mouth turns up as she smiles. “That is just lovely,” she says lifting the cat out of his hand.  Watching this intimate expressions of a loving relationship made me ponder growing old with the counselor.  I had a moment; right there in the place mat aisle.  I thought about how much I love the counselor; how I want to go shopping with him when we get old because we will get old and then I teared up all because of a Chesire cat.

A young man rushes to his friend in line, holding onto a record album.  This kid is cool, with his low ride gray corduroy pants and Justen Bieber hair.  He's also a hippie, wearing some sort of vintage concert t-shirt.  The cover of the record album is intriguing;  something I would enjoy looking at for sure. “My mom’s going to flip.  She has all Jethro Tull albums except for this one.  I can’t wait to show her,” he says to his "just as cool" friend. I think about my own sons, how they get excited to show me projects they've worked on from school.  I hope they still think I'm cool and are excited to share things with me when they are teenagers.

A young woman looks through the bedding sheets, pulling at each one in order to find the size tag.  She says to her friend “Not only is it a California King, but it’s a pillow top.”  She's obviously frustrated at her mattress, but interrupts mid-sentence almost in a screech.  “Oh my gosh, look at this.  They're violet and Egyptian cotton.”  She pulls a pair of mattress sheet off the hanger, delighted she found just the right size.  Her reaction is similar to someone winning the lottery.

Reef finds a Lightening McQueen big wheel.  Just as he reaches to take the steering wheel, another toddler races over to him screaming and crying.  His mother, just steps behind rushes to his side.  “You said you didn’t want it,” she says to her child, pulling him away from the car.  “Oh, was this his,” I ask, ready to tell Reef he needs to share.  She looks at her son.  “Do you want me to buy it for you?” she asks.  Surely, he’ll say “Yes”, but he shakes his head back and forth.  “No,” he says and they walk off, the mother shrugging her shoulders.  Funny thing is Reef didn't want to play with it after that.

A father shopping with five teenage girls sees me struggling with a purchase and offers to help me carry a large white Pottery Barn-like toy box (I bought it for $12.99) out to my car.  I comment on how lovely his daughters are.  “You have five girls,” I confirm, telling him I have five kids too; four boys and finally a girl.  “I had a son once,” he says and the mood quickly changes.  “He died when he was nine months old; that was about 14 years ago.” He offers a meager smile.   I look at this man, the lines on his face and the grays sprouting through his black hair.  I feel sad and want to say something to this stranger that shows how I feel, but all I can do is look at the lines around his eyes.  The pause is too short.  He smiles and wishes me a nice evening. 

I have a donation to drop off when I see a familiar face.  I’ve never introduced myself to this woman, but I’ve seen her around town plenty of times.  She’s tall, surrounded by children and has a pink flower headband peeking out from behind her ears.  She’s loading an amazing vintage dresser into her van.  I push my stroller up to get a closer look.  “You know, I’ve seen you like a hundred times, but never introduced myself.  I’m Laura Lofgreen and I love this dresser you found.”  Her personality is a warm hug and we’re instantly friends.  “So, I was in line early this morning and ran straight to the furniture section when they opened the doors.  I paid $30 for this,” she informs me.  “I’d love to feature you on my blog,” I say.

A woman in front of me writes a check for her purchase.  I wait patiently, but already know I’m in the wrong line.  The other cashiers ring customers up in no time, but I wait.  Reef eyes the snack stand near the cash register and ask for Cheetos.  Surely, I’ll only be in line for a few minutes.  I try to distract him.  The orange-stained fingers and the partially-hydrogenated oils, UGGHH!  I don’t want Reef to have them, but he’s not giving up easily.  This is taking forever.  Something needs to be verified in order for this woman’s check to be accepted.  Reef has been so good; not a whine, not a demand, so I give in.  His Cheetos are just about gone by the time it’s my turn in line.  Darn check writers.

I know it’s just stuff, but it does make us happy; doesn't it.
Linking up to:   


Jenny Matlock


  1. That was an AWESOME post! I went into my first Salvation Army just a couple weeks ago. I think it's about finding that piece of treasure amongst all the trash. It's a great feeling. I'm sad to say, I accidently left behind a lamp I bought. I didn't realize it until last weekend, but I'm sure there will be more treasures to be found.

  2. Love your post! I really don't know WHAT it is, I just get the feeling that Iam missing something really grand if I don't go check the junk stores out. All I DO know is that its crazy fun!!

  3. I love, love, love people watching at GW. The observation about the man brought tears to my eyes. Your whole post is wonderfully written. I could just picture these people in my mind.

  4. That was such a great post...that part about the man that lost his son almost made me cry! I definitely get giddy about stuff at the're so right!

  5. I really enjoyed your writing here in this piece. I go to Goodwill a few times each year, but it's always to get rid of stuff. Maybe I should go there to watch people sometime. I won't be buying anything though (unless it's extraordinary!).

    I've been trying to get rid of stuff as much as I can. In fact I've started a Tuesday series on my blog that I call Tossing It Out Tuesdays, where I talk about what I'm getting rid of.

    Tossing It Out

  6. I absolutely love shopping at thrift stores! Thanks for following me at Book Dreaming. :-)

  7. I'm a big Goodwill fan. I've only talked to a few customers before though - mostly older women who seem to want someone to listen. You told great stories in this post. Thanks.

  8. Great post! Never been one for large gatherings of sales but maybe I will!

  9. I have a friend that goes on dates with her husband to Goodwill. We blogs about her success there.

  10. And this post made ME happy. What a slice of life!


    PS. And even some violet sheets...

  11. I loved this post! Great writing, I felt like I was there. My trips to Goodwill usually involve getting rid of stuff. Guess I need to actually go in, if only to people watch :)

  12. I feel your checkout line pain -- I ALWAYS choose the wrong line!! And yes, those darn cheque writers!!

    All your Goodwill shopping snippets are great, but my favourite is the teenager buying his mom the Jethro Tull album :-)


  13. Wow. I have to say, I haven't been that wrapped up in a blogpost in...maybe forever? You captured those moments so clearly, I felt I was there with you. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

  14. This was an amazing post. I totally loved how you wrote this. I was there. I was standing behind you in that check writing line. Incredibly visual writing here.

    I'm impressed.

    Thanks for this wonderful link and taking us along with you.

    I will remember this story.


  15. AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I got a mention! wow! I feel totally special. my vintage dresser isn't refinished yet but when it is. I'll email ya. It was way fun meeting you too!

  16. I am so thrilled to have found your extremely cool blog here! You are my kinda people! I have always loved the thrill of the hunt at a good garage sale or junk shop. I LOVED this post! How beautifully you articulated the experiences you had that day. Especially the story about the gentleman who helped you...just beautiful. I'm a writer is always a joy to read words so beautifully arranged. Really lovely.