There's a hot-spot in my town, a place where I run into more people I know, than any other place in town. No, it's not the supermarket where, for some odd reason, I rarely have encounters with friends. It is the VNA "Thriftique", the large second-hand shop that sits right in a shopping plaza on Route 28 in South Yarmouth. It's so much a part of my life that I almost have withdrawal symptoms on Sundays and Mondays, the two days it is closed. These feelings do not belong to me alone. Just say the name, "VNA Thrift Shop" and invariably, the person to whom you are speaking will give you an "Oh" or an "Ah", signaling the start of a lengthy discussion on the virtues of this amazing place. Men and women alike, old and young but mostly, the older because we have an appreciation for the treasures that are housed in this place.
I love a bargain. Who doesn't? But my shopping experiences at the VNA go way beyond that need to find something "cheap". I enter, and I am soothed. It's a virtual oasis, especially if I am feeling stressed, tired or bored. The best part, is the fact that there is such a turn-over of merchandise, keeping the friendly volunteer staff busy with a constant restocking of shelves and racks. I am not only a purchaser, I am also a donor and no matter what the size of my contribution, or the contents, I simply drive up to the back door and one of the staffers comes out to my car with a huge smile and a set of hands that swoop the items out of the trunk or backseat and I drive away.......oftentimes, directly to the opposite side of the store, the front door.
So, what is it that has hooked me, made me such a loyal fan? What is it that rises my adrenaline and pushes me over the threshold several times each week? Perhaps it is the need for a specific item, some wine glasses to replace some broken, a new tea pot or a funky piece of jewelry for a dollar. Maybe it's the books, finding those titles that years ago, when doing a down-size of my own living space, I discarded and now, wonder how I could have lived all those years without that very one. I've thought, more than once, if the book I was buying had once been on my own shelf at one time during my family history. I would not be in the least bit surprised to find my name on the inside cover. What goes around, comes around, has new meaning.
Thrift shops are, as it turns out, more than just places to shop. They are akin to museums. They hold the answers to how people might have lived, what was and wasn't important, what is no longer considered to be part of a stylish wardrobe. The thrift shop might very well be the most important place in a town, any town, for this very reason. Racks upon racks of articles of clothing, handbags, shoes, hats, coats and even lingerie, all have a story to tell. Did someone lose or gain weight? Was this the last outfit Mother wore before she died? Where has that handbag been? What grounds have these shoes touched? How much did the former owner have to save before buying this or that item that now sells for a mere dollar? Stories and stories and more stories. If only these items could talk. Oh, how I wish they could, I truly do. Perhaps they would, in addition to telling me their personal history, let me know that my addiction is a good one, that I am a faithful custodian, honoring their place, making them feel once again as important as they were the day they were first purchased. I sense that there is a need for people like me.