§ To celebrate our upcoming Independence Day, I will extol a different way to buy American! §
One of the worst aspects of the Indiana coronavirus lockdown was, for me, the inability to spend my free time shopping at flea markets and thrift and consignment or charity shops. Tracking down wonderful and unexpected treasures at these markets has been one of my favorite pastimes for the past couple of decades.
Now, to be quite frank, there was a time in my youth when I would have been horrified at the notion of bringing second-hand goods into my home or wearing them on my back. Even the name “flea market” (yes, it is unappealing!) sent a shudder down my spine. That was, however, until one rainy weekend afternoon when I was convinced by an acquaintance to give the activity a try. With nothing better to do and utterly bored, I agreed to traipse with her through a local flea market, figuring it would at least get my butt up off the couch.
Joining her on that first marketing adventure, I was amazed and astounded. Yes, the shops contained an immense amount of junk, much of it dirty and obviously unloved, but there were also hidden riches just waiting to be unearthed. I was astonished and delighted. Shopping at a thrift store or flea market was, I realized, a whole lot like a treasure hunt. Often I came away empty-handed, but other times, why, at other times I was rewarded with masses of unexpected and unlikely prizes. My “fleaze” I called them, the lovely things from furnishings to beautiful china and glassware that I delightedly discovered on my thrift shopping trips.
My obsession with second-hand goods has been possibly helped by the fact that my family is in no way pretentious or supercilious about gifts. Instead, tightfisted and genetically bequeathed with the thrifty habits of our Scottish forebears, we are thrilled beyond measure when the giver, handing us something we really love or want as a birthday or holiday gift, can exclaim in excitement, “I found it at a consignment shop! You wouldn’t believe how little I paid for it!” Yes, we are definitely all anti-snobs, gleefully gloating over our Scrooge-like frugality.
Some—most—of the furnishings and accessories in my home that I best enjoy have been purchased at flea markets, or at thrift or consignment or charity shops. My adorable distressed dining room table and chairs and gorgeous antique rocker; the favorite green armchair that comforted me through a bad bout of flu; my converted-from-an-entertainment center china cabinets–all were purchased second-hand, and I genuinely value them. Recycled goods have also nearly saved my bacon on a few occasions, such as the time when I, newly divorced, had to furnish an apartment for my teenage daughter and myself. I was leaving nearly every piece of furniture I owned behind with my ex-husband. But my sister-in-law contributed a loveseat that had been stored in her mother’s garage, while a friend provided a used entertainment center for our living room. Another friend bequeathed me a cast-off bunk bed for my child, while a neighbor sold me a daybed that she no longer needed. Without those furnishings, my daughter and I would have been laying our heads to rest in sleeping bags and sitting on the floor to watch TV.
Despite constantly patronizing the second-hand shops and garage sales, I’ve never made so wondrous a discovery as an aunt who purchased a used cedar chest at a garage sale and, upon arriving home with her prize, discovered it had a false bottom where a hand-made antique quilt had been secreted. I’ve never been that lucky. Nor do I anticipate ever being one of those fortunate individuals who stumble upon a Van Gogh hidden in a rack of amateur artist’s paintings. Instead, I’m over-the-moon if I can just find a fine piece of the hand-blown glass my brother treasures to add to his collection.
But perhaps the best thing about buying and using and really enjoying these recycled bits and pieces is that I am supporting the very smallest of small business owners: the little people who scour the moving and garage and estate sales and auctions, and who then rent a booth to peddle items ranging from the odd and unusual to the astounding. The merchandise they sell, no matter where it might have originated, has been bought and owned and then discarded or contributed; purchased again and then prepared for resale. And by the time any product has been through all that, been passed through so many citizen’s hands, no matter where it was once manufactured, it is an American product!
So I, proudly and happily, will continue on my treasure hunts to buy American “Fleaze”.