As the vast majority on this Earth know, in a life without money the thing to do is to make do. For the last half century I have held my pride and my nose and picked over the sometimes smelly, sticky, or oddly used things offered up in thrift shops or garage sales. Sometimes I found a treasure in the shabby trove.
In the seventies when I was just starting my adult life, thrift shops were wonderful little mom and pop enterprises, the proprietors of which would bargain with me, and then sometimes generously give me what I wanted for pennies on the dollar. I bought many used books (10¢ for a paperback, 25¢ for a hardback book) to establish my home library, an entire living room full of classical books straining shelves from floor to ceiling. The shelves were boards laid between stacked cinder blocks, but I was very proud of the content of my library. I decorated my home with quaint, even beautiful figurines from yesteryear, each with only the slightest of mars. I served my first inexperienced dinner parties on mismatched but very pretty china; and so on.
Then thrift shops became antique shops with highly priced gewgaws, garage sales became more commonplace, and slick auction companies scooped up the best garage sale finds early on the first day of the garage sales while I was still at work, so I bought whatever household goods were left at those garage sales early on Friday evenings. I furnished my home with interesting old-style wooden chairs, wooden end tables with a bit of flair, and other durable furnishings. I always balanced the old with a new and comfortable sofa and recliner, which were well worth the expense.
Buying from an exhausted homeowner at their garage sale was not the same as the charming interactions I had had with thrift shop owners. But there was still some pleasure to be had. One of the last times I purchased something gently used was in the early 2000s. I bought this pretty, vintage French pillow which is an Indian elephant printed in faux embroidery. I took it apart, gently washed it, cut a new foam pad for it, and sewed up a torn edge. I have always enjoyed recycling human artifacts.
The fact that the magnificent elephant is tortured with jangling bangles to torment its ears, cruel blinders over its eyes, heavy and unnatural cloth draperies confining its body, and cuffs on its feet where it is habitually chained, make this a prayer token. Is it still pretty?
Caption: Indian elephant on vintage French pillow
purchased used by Annmarie Throckmorton 2007