Someone, at one point, thought they did.
The quesadilla-maker, the coffee pots, the insanely ugly lamps, the crocheted afghans in shades of fluorescent oranges, greens, and yellows, the heavy, chunky plates with ugly patterns on them, the shot glasses from Bourbon Street, the framed pictures of children and angels and horses and Nascar heroes. The lurid comforters, fit for a whorehouse in pinks and in purples, their faux satin covers shining and thread-strung.
I looked at a scarf I wish I'd bought. It had a pattern of leaves, colors printed on silken air. I didn't. Why? I love things like that and also the homemade, hand-embroidered Indian dress I saw. No one I know could have worn that dress it was so tiny, but I could have hung it on the wall. I do that sometimes. Buy things of beauty and hang them up. I actually put a pillow in my cart. It was the kind I like, tropical bark cloth with a cotton fringe. By the time I'd crawled through the whole store and hadn't found another thing I really wanted, I decided to take it back and put it up on the shelf. I found a cashmere sweater that I didn't like particularly despite its softness and I left it for another person, shoved between all the acrylics and polys and nylons arranged by color and size.
I did not buy these lovely ladies either, one smudge-cheeked, whether from time or play, no way to tell. Dolls can be creepy and beautiful at the same time and thrift stores are full of them. My heart sometimes goes out to them, just as it does to the homemade dresses, the old Corning Ware which someone's mama cooked a thousand tuna casseroles in, the little black stone statue of Chac Mool which I was almost fool enough to buy, the straw bags from exotic Caribbean ports saying Nassau, the Bahamas, Mexico in colorful raffia, purchased by someone on a cruise.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, I'm sure.
But I guess I wasn't really shopping, was I? Just spending an hour in a dimly lit Goodwill store, listening to the employees chatter as they put things on racks, sorted and dusted, the hits of the seventies, eighties and nineties, piped in through the speakers.
I walked back out through the rain, no bag in my hand, and got in my car and came home, slightly sad that I had not found a treasure, some tiny pretty gem to wear or put on a mantel, to put a camellia in, to look at and wonder, who made that? It's okay. For an hour my mind was free to roam as I touched this and picked up that, wandered about and was alone but not alone, surrounded by others who were in their own heads, all of us hoping to find some small thing, perhaps, to bring home, to feel as if it had brightened this gray, wet, chilly day a tiny bit. At least for a little while.
Hunting for rubies in red dirt, picking up old leather boots which someone wore a thousand times, noting a pair of red stilettos with heels at least six inches tall, not bigger than a size five, if that, wondering, always wondering at the stories behind them all. The who's and the why's, the where's and the what's? The when's?
Every object owned by a human who had a story as big and as important as anyone else's. In some way. Most people just don't have the ways or means to tell their stories and fewer still have someone else who are inspired to tell the stories for them.
But at the Goodwill, you can find the objects they left behind or gave away, again- no way to tell. And the pieces of the puzzle can be picked up and considered, stories can be imagined and embroidered from them. Did someone conceive a baby, seduce a husband, sleep all alone wearing that pink negligee? Did a child love that doll to pieces or did some old woman put it on a shelf where it sat until she died?
Did a lot of people just outgrow their jeans? Realize that a clock which dispenses artificial scents was completely useless and annoying? Actually learn something from that self-help book or set it down and get drunk?
I do not know. But it is a fine thing on a rainy afternoon to wander and wonder.
To come home and write about it all, to ask the questions and then forget about it all. The Goodwill is always there. So are the stories which we can never really know.
A sort of living museum of human behavior and activity. A midden mound of fresh archaeological and anthropological data. A place where you can actually buy what someone else cherished or hated, outgrew, fell out of love with, deemed nothing but clutter, replaced with something they liked more.
"You want Mama's casserole dish?"
"Nah. I got all that Le Crueset. That Corning Ware is ugly."
"Okay. Put it in the donate pile."
"What about Daddy's ties?"
"No one wears ties anymore. Donate."
"That picture of the clowns?"
Oh GOD no. Please."
And so it goes and so it will always go and I look at the things in my cabinets and closets and sigh, knowing that someday my children too will have these conversations.
"Lord. How old IS this cookie sheet?"
Older than you can imagine. Still works just fine.
"Don't you DARE take all Mama's iron skillets."
"I'll trade you the skillets for her diamond necklace."
"Okay. If you throw in her grandmother's gold bracelet."
I can imagine both backwards and forewords on a rainy night in February. That's what it means to be human. We use stuff, we think stuff, we buy stuff, we discard stuff. We live and acquire, we die and leave every fucking bit of it.
It's all right.