Turtle's Progress

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


When most people travel to a new area, one of the first things they want to know is the location of the mall or the main shopping area, and that is where they head. Finding the locations of museums, parks and historic areas are usually secondary, as we have become a society that prefers to acquire an item from a store rather than a memory from an activity. When young people who were volunteering to become “Bigs” in the Big Brother Big Sister program where I worked, were asked about their hobbies, the great majority said “shopping,” or “going to the mall”. So rather than being something done out of necessity to buy food, clothing, and other items of survival, shopping has become what some people do for fun.

Though I do enjoy visiting the local museums and other traditional landmarks of any new city I visit, I must confess, that I also seek out certain stores and shop for fun myself. Not the Old Navy, Bed Bath and Beyond, or Ann Taylor Loft, but the thrift stores! I’ll take a Goodwill over a Gap any day!

On a recent visit to Chicago, my husband and I walked through the downtown areas close to our hotel, through the theater district, and down the “Miracle Mile”. We walked past shoppers heavy with bags advertising where they had shopped. But I had no desire to go in any of these stores. We have AF, AE, Victoria’s Secret and Tommy Hilfiger stores within an hour’s drive of our house. Why go to Chicago and do what you can do at home? I longed to see the finds at the local Salvation Army Store or Goodwill, but knew the rents in the downtown Chicago area would be prohibitive and there was little chance of “thrifting” at a charitable enterprise in this area. A used book store with a fun array of children’s books, both fiction and non-fiction for adults, and well-organized and well-stocked was the closest we came to a thrift store, until…

Right there in the heart of Chicago, half a block from Borders, and across the street from the Hershey Store, was a gold mine -- a small hospital-affiliated second-hand store! Located on the bottom floor of what had once been an old brick three story home, it was full of treasures of the city. Clothes, glassware, furniture, fur stoles, china, CDs and shoes filled the shelves and racks. Items with history I would never know but had served their previous owner well. We browsed for a good hour, and found little to buy but were enriched by the experience.

For me, that is the draw of “thrifting” – never knowing just what you might find. Thrift stores are not the places to shop if you have a specific item in mind. One should enter a thrift with few expectations other than an openness to search the shelves and racks for the unknown. Thrift stores have served me well over the years. My teenage daughters were able to find the latest brand of blue jeans reasonably priced when we could not afford to pay retail. I found a beautiful formal to wear to a Navy Day Ball years ago. The mahogany end tables that still adorn my living room were purchased at least 20 years ago. We weren’t looking specifically for any of these items but we were lucky enough to find them!

So here is a tally of my latest finds. A ceramic vase with colors that match my décor (the bottom shows it was thrown by A.J. on 12/5/77), a leather purse with just the right number of pockets to meet my needs, a handled basket that holds my journal and current books perfectly, and the book 700 Sundays by Billy Crystal – hardcover and in perfect condition it will make a great gift. I wasn’t looking for any of these items but at less than $10 for all of them I couldn’t resist!

But probably the dearest thing I ever found in the Goodwill is my best friend, Joyce, ... that will have to be another entry.


At 7:04 PM, Blogger erin said...

Lent cheater! Just kidding - I'm glad you bent a little. Love the story...can't wait for the next installment! And why didn't you mention finding "mama don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys"?

At 2:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there, best friend!
Wow, you really can tell a lot of stories about the great finds in the thrift stores. Can't wait to hear more. Don't forget...the clothes for "my work"!
I love you, my friend.

At 4:33 PM, Blogger lori said...

Leave it to my sister to find a thrift store in a town she's never been to before. I have to say, I'm rather surprised with all the thing's you actually bought considering how you love to walk around with thing you plan on buying and then put them all back.

At 2:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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