The Thrift of Grief
Of all the ways I’ve meandered my way through grief since Mom died four months ago, none has proven more surprising than the new joy I’ve found among the dusty treasures in thrift stores.
In a thrift store, you’ve got everything that good old-fashioned grief requires.
First of all, no matter which way you turn you encounter items—-whether pieces of apparel from the ‘80s, salt and pepper shakers, or bronzed baby shoes—-that remind you of the dearly departed. So you shed a tear and no one in the shop is any the wiser. They all imagine, if they notice you at all, that you’re rabidly allergic to mold and mildew, commodities in ample supply in most thrifts.
You let the tears roll down your face and don’t even bother to wipe them away, because to do so would leave huge streaks of dirt in their stead. Dirt acquired from touching stuff, the kind of stuff people donate to thrift stores, stuff that’s been in basements and attics and garages for years, maybe decades. Dirty stuff.
Second, once you get past the fact that it seems you just donated half this junk when you cleared out your mom’s possessions and now you’re facing the temptation to buy it all back for sentiment’s sake, you’ll take a closer look at your fellow customers. One young mom has your mother’s same high cheekbones and lightly freckled nose, her dishwater blonde hair pulled back with a nape-of-the-neck barrette. Her clear blue eyes are made even brighter by the (obviously) thrifted clip-on sapphire rhinestone earrings that are exact replicas of ones Mom wore in the ‘50s. Rhinestones in the light of day! With shorts and a halter top and espadrilles!
This long-legged gal could be your mom some fifty years ago, and you the little girl holding her hand, clutching in the crook of your other elbow a Bobsey Twins hardback.
Next, you spot the old woman, the one wearing scuff house slippers, whose feet are so swollen she’ll never find a pair of second-hand shoes—-even among the men’s selection—-to fit her. She smiles a waif-like smile, considering her overall girth, and gives you almost an apologetic look, as if she owes you an explanation for her disability, for the untold effort it takes her to shuffle to the side so you can pass. You smile back and greet her with a kind word because of course, she owes you nothing. And neither, neither does your own dear mother.
Finally, you make a few choices among the peasant blouses and the jeans with the brand-new tags still on them and then study the prices. Suddenly, it’s 1958, and your mom has taken you on a thrilling shopping trip to the Jay Kay Shop in the Waldo neighborhood of Kansas City. Mrs. Jay Kay is showing you her latest merchandise, an outfit that will become your favorite of the season. Your mother is not a bargain shopper. She pulls out her billfold and counts out the dollars to Mrs. Jay Kay. Counting is your strong suit, and you carefully consider the price your mom is paying, as she places into the shop owner’s hand the exact amount you’ll be paying today.
Grief can be the greatest extravagance you’ll ever know, and on many days, it is. On some days, you have no choice about the emotional toll you’ll pay merely to get from morning until evening, like the charge to cross a bridge in questionable repair.
But on other days, grief is thrifty. It doles itself out bit by bit, 25 cents’ worth at a time, and you end up with a greater number of treasures than you started with, and for a price you can actually afford.
Posted by Katy on 07/08/11 at 04:39 PMFallible Comments...
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