Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Another day, another doll
True story: Several years ago, I was visiting the ancestral home in Jersey with my older daughter who was then just a couple years old. As always, my first priority was making the rounds of the two thrift shops I've been frequenting since I was a wee lass: the larger one is run by the Ladies' Hospital Auxiliary and occupies a former department store (Murray's, I think, or was it Montgomery Ward?) on the town's main street, and the other is in the musty wood-panelled basement of the Catholic church, a five-minute walk from my house. So I took my daughter to the church shop and this peculiar-in-a-cool-way fashion doll was the first thing we snapped up. (Note that she did not have that odd storky neck at the time; it was concealed by a bit of satin ribbon held in place by a pearl-tipped pin. Even I know it's not advisable to let toddlers play with pins.) After we filled a paper sack with old books and records and old-ladyish pocketbooks and retro cheese plates, we went home and proudly spread out our booty on the porch for my mother to inspect.
She wasn't very impressed, considering that half the stuff we bought had been donated to the shop by her, including the freaky doll.
I've made this observation before, about how thrifting and estate sale shopping really bring home the idea that the circle of life is really just a circle of stuff, passing from one sentimental fool/obsessive freakazoid to the next. But sometimes when I'm at the ancestral home, it feels more like being trapped in a Bermuda Triangle of stuff. Or whipped up in a whirlwind of stuff. Insert your own stuffy metaphor here. My mother is a dealer, as I've discussed previously, and the house bursts from the seams with stuff that I want and stuff that I don't want. Four floors, plus several rental storage units. In addition to hitting the garage sale circuit hard on the weekends and making buying trips to certain antique shows, she still frequents the church thrift shop, as well as the hospital thrift shop, where she actually volunteers (her charitable service began decades ago when the ladies' auxiliary decided to open a thrift store. I'm sure it was just a coincidence). Used to be when I visited, I had to control my covetous nature—I'd always end up loading the car or stuffing my suitcases with stuff that I'd asked for and she gave me. These days, I spend less time coveting and more time mentally downsizing, trying to figure out how the impossible will be accomplished when the time comes to accomplish it. I've just returned from Spring Break in Jersey and if you go to my instagram, you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about.
This doesn't mean I leave empty-handed. For some time, I've had my eye on a wooden Pinocchio doll tucked up on the top shelf of a crowded bookcase in my brother's old room, but I couldn't fit it in my suitcase. My mother promises to send it. And the kids and I went to the thrift stores and bought a lot of books, which my parents will ship to me via media mail. But I didn't find anything too special, like the stork-necked fashion doll. I remember chastising my mom for donating the doll instead of giving it to my daughter (minus the pin, of course). How could she be so thoughtless? I was haunted by images of all the great stuff that was slipping through my fingers, stuff she was selling or donating without consulting me first.
I choose to take this as a sign of maturity (sanity), that I no longer fret (too much) over the things that got away, the things that are getting away every day, probably even as I'm writing this post. I'll just keep going to the thrift shops when I'm back in town and hoping to run across one of her castoffs—the hunting and the finding is kinda the best part, after all.