You Should Thrift Here: Lorraineâ€™s House
When you love shopping for vintage clothes as much as I do, the quest for new/old pieces burrows deep into your subconscious and manifests in the realm of dreams. Like the thrift store that I visit time and again in my sleep, pulling incredible relics off of the shelvesâ€”each one perfect for me, my sister, or my best friend. Then thereâ€™s the dream where a vintage store is closing and they donâ€™t want any of their remaining stock. â€śTake what you want,â€ť they tell me, â€śwe have more than we need.â€ť And I do, pulling dresses and coats and boots off of the racks, my heart beating with excitementâ€”so much so that it wakes me up, and I find that what my fingers are gripping is not the shoulders of an exquisite vintage dress but the soft edge of my sheet.
Yesterday, I went to a sale that made me feel as though I was living in one of my dreams. Iâ€™d been referred to a woman, Linda, who was in the process of liquidating her mother, Lorraine, and grandmother, Francisâ€™s, shared estate and had vintage clothes (some with tags still attached) and shoes, and jewelry and art and books and on and on that still remained from the estate sale. When I contacted Linda and found out that she had 4 closets full of clothing that she wished to sell, I offered to buy what I could and to help her to find a buyer for the rest.
Walking through the door of that simple ranch house was like slipping from reality into fantasy. In the living room there were boxes of costume jewelry and bags of paper dolls, stacks of books and collections of vintage pictures and postcards. The kitchen held vintage serving dishes and a gorgeous full dinner set. In the garage, old puzzles with all of the pieces still there, vintage board games and stuffed animals waited to be played with again. Down in the basement, 2 closets held beautiful clothes, including an exquisite opera coat and housedresses from the 50s. Upstairs in the bedrooms, there were stacks of linens and towels, some never used, shoes still in their boxes, more books, vintage fabrics and lingerie and still more clothes.
Linda explained that Lorraine had always been a big shopper, often buying more pieces than she would ever wear, while Francis had been a crafter who had even crocheted some of her own clothes, including a gorgeous salmon colored dress with the left over yarn still hanging next to it. Linda had hired an estate sale company to help her organize and price the sale but had not been able to bear attending the sale herself (â€śI didnâ€™t want to see all of those people just digging through my motherâ€™s things,â€ť she told me), and had showed up only on the last official day to see what remained. And what remained was still nearly a houseful of her mother and grandmotherâ€™s belongings.
Whereas yard sales are sometimes more of a celebration of life and excess (people who are moving or downsizing passing on their used and sometimes unused goods) estate sales speak to the reality of death and what becomes of the possessions of the deceased. Not everything, no matter how beautiful, can become a precious family heirloom. Sometimes, it simply must be passed onâ€”to friends, colleagues, and even to strangers like me.
When I go to estate sales, I try to remember that everything that is passing through my fingers once belonged to someone who loved those objects, who filled and decorated their homes with them. They ate off of those plates, danced in those shoes, fell in love in those exquisite dresses, and dreamed beneath those blankets. The dress that is now for sale for $5 may have been purchased only after months of savingâ€”and the sight of it may still send memories racing through the minds of their loved ones. I like to think that by showing respect toward to pieces that I find, even if I donâ€™t intend to buy them, Iâ€™m saying a sort of quiet â€śthank youâ€ť to the person who purchased them so long ago, and took such good care of them that I can now wear them 40 or 50 or even 60 years after they were manufactured.
As I went through that house, I began to create piles of the things that I would like to buy. After a while, the piles were so big that I knew Iâ€™d have to go through and make some difficult choices about which ones I really wanted. Linda and I had talked and laughed as Iâ€™d walked through the house with her. Iâ€™d listened as she reminisced about growing up as her motherâ€™s only child, felt a bit misty as I looked at the tiny baby clothes she found in one of the many boxes, and giggled when she told me how the little stuffed kitten that we found had been her stand in for a real cat when her mother refused to let her have one of her own. Those stories were as priceless as the dresses and coats that filled the closets. It seemed like a gift to be able to learn so much about the owners of the pieces I coveted.
As I started to sort through my little piles, trying to decide which pieces were my must haves, Linda stood by and watched me. I told her that everything was amazing, but that I knew that I could not possibly afford it all. She agreed with me, and then she said the words that really made me wonder whether I was awake or dreaming, words that sounded quite like â€śTake what you want, I have too many,â€ť and gave me everything I wanted for less than I could ever have imagined. I knew that I couldnâ€™t be dreaming. The light of the sun felt too real as we loaded the pieces into the car. I could hear dogs barking, see children playing. No, I was wide awake and had just been given an incredible gift. It was better than a dream because it was real.
-- TaRosa Jacobs