At my favorite thrift store this week I saw yet another personalized wedding gift languishing on the shelves. I doubt another John and Amber, who just happened to get married on June 20, 1994, will be searching the knick-knack aisles for just such an item.
As a result, on my weekly shopping forays I’ll be subjected to their personalized vase and my mind will weave a story about its unfortunate landing on this dusty shelf. Sure, it may have just not fit in with the decor of the happy couple, but my good sense tells me that John and Amber are now in Splitsville: broken dreams, broken promises, broken home.
I think of the future they once had, dashed. I wonder about the children, the mortgage, the house with the 2-car garage. I am protective and feel like buying it, just to get it off of the shelves and away from prying eyes.
My thrift store habit already borders on the obsessive, so if I start bringing home other people’s personalized stuff, I’ll be certifiable. But what about the plain plastic frame over there with a middle-aged couple walking down the aisle—probably a second wedding? Couldn’t whoever donated it have taken the photo out first so I wouldn’t have to wonder, all day, how neither party, no matter how badly burned by love the 2nd time around, would want to keep the picture?
I have a friend who recently bought a vintage scrapbook from a junk shop. It is probably about 60 or so years old. After extensive Internet research, she managed to track down the daughter of the family in the scrapbook. She wants to reunite her with the family album and has placed a phone call, yet unanswered, to the daughter. This friend, like me, savors the story, and sees stuff as more than stuff.
Savoring (or, in my case, imagining) the story can be a burden. It makes me think of John and Amber when I should be thinking of great thrift shop deals I can score for my family. It makes me wonder which photos, dishes and furniture I should save since I serve as my family’s unofficial historian. I want my kids to be interested in, but not bogged down by, memories of the past. Our kitchen wall is decorated with the words, “The best things in life aren’t things,”and I want to exemplify that to them.
So instead of worrying about John and Amber, and the winners of countless sports trophies and tacky business awards (“Bob Parker—January’s Top Salesman!”) that line the thrift store shelves, I will try to move on. I’ll try to remember the relief these people most likely felt from cleaning up and clearing out—and that sometimes stuff is just stuff. And, when I do finally donate some of the more sentimental “treasures” I have, I’ll try not to imagine a phone call reuniting me with my stuff a few years later.