I still remember the first shirt I bought there, in large part because I wore it so often. I loved that shirt. I’m pretty sure I thought it made me super cool, although looking back I needed more than a shirt to help me in that department. I don’t know what happened to it, and sadly the only evidence I have now of its existence is this picture of me wearing it and playing the contra-bass clarinet. Was I super cool, or what?
I do find it strange that I don’t know the whereabouts of that shirt. I tend to hold on to well-loved clothes long after I’ve stopped wearing them. I still have the jean jacket I adored in 5th grade, a sweater I coveted and saved up for in 9th grade, and several items from my formative thrifting years in college (some of which still make the rotation to this day).
Why do I hang on to these clothes? Why am I so attached? Am I saving these things for my future children, in the hopes that they’ll be as super cool as I am? Or am I just too sentimental? If I let go of the much-loved things in my life, am I somehow letting go of a part of myself?
These clothes are woven with memories, and for me, part of the memory is the moment we first met: Me, tirelessly searching the t-shirt racks. I spot something promising and my heart skips a beat. A quick scan for stains, size, softness--all signs point to…YES! Well, it is very nice to meet you! You’ll be living with me from now on. Special bonus for being funny or weird. Here’s one of my all time favorites:
It’s not always easy to visit the Whitewater Thrift Shoppe. While they have scheduled hours, they aren’t plentiful. And if you’re only in town because it’s a holiday, forget it. They will probably be closed a week before and after. But this is all part of the charm and what makes it great. Goodwills may be open on Sundays and have a rack of t-shirts a mile long, but they sure don’t have charm.
What The Thrift Shoppe lacks in convenience it more than makes up for in character: the handwritten price tags; the carefully organized craft section; the lovely woman who will write out your receipt in loopy script and gently wrap up your purchases. She will ask you if you go to the university or if you are an artist. She will rip apart the receipt, stab the store copy onto the metal holder and wish you to have a great day. By the sparkle in her eyes, you will know that she means it.
This is the thrift store I want to shoppe at. The next time I head up the creaky stairs to sift through the shirt rack in the attic, I’ll catch a glimpse of the dusty corners of my youth. And it will feel a bit like going home.