The most odd thing happened at the thrift store tonight. Not just odd, but….bittersweet.
As I write this, I almost want to cry. Well, don’t worry. I’ll try not to. After all, I’m not one of those “racoon-eyes-my-mascara-is-running-fan-my-face” kind of girl.
But something bittersweet happened at the thrift store tonight that completely changes how I look at the beloved things we donate and buy at the thrift store and left me thoughtful. I wonder if you’ve ever had an experience like this…?
It all started earlier this afternoon while cleaning out my kids’ room.
It looked like a LEGO bomb went off in there:
Remember I made that awesome bookcase with built-in LEGO storage for them recently? Well, it had been sitting out in the garage for the past couple weeks and it was finally time to move it inside.
It also meant their other LEGO storage container needed to find a new home: the thrift store.
I look at this old picture of my oldest and middle son, seeing how small they were, realizing how they’ve practically grown up with this piece of furniture in their bedroom that stored their beloved LEGOS, practically the only toys they play with in their electronics-crazed lives.
They’ve rooted through the pile, searching for the perfect pieces to build cars, spaceships, and “fighter guys.” They’ve heard me complain about all the LEGOS littering the floor, nearly puncturing my heels when I accidentally step on them.
This storage container started falling apart, though: my 3-year-old would climb inside, and the bottom would give way, creating an avalanche of LEGOS all over their floor.
It was a mess, really.
I hope that this newer bookcase I created for them (below) will contain their LEGOS, while serving as a bookshelf for all the books they ask me to read to them for story-time before going to bed.
So today I shoved the old LEGO table into my van, dropped it off at the curbside donation, parked my car, then went inside to check out what goodies awaited me inside.
To my amazement, this is what I saw immediately after making the donation:
Our beloved, crayon-ridden LEGO storage table, sitting right there! They literally moved it inside as soon as soon as I had donated it. They hadn’t even tagged it yet.
I can’t begin to explain the emotion I felt seeing it sit there. Thoughts went through our mind to the tune of, “That used to be mine!” and “That was part of my children’s childhood!”
I thought about all the years we had gathered around it building LEGO houses, shuffling the pile of plastic aside in search of the perfect piece for our creations.
All that history….Our history. Sitting there in front of me at the thrift store, waiting for some other family to come along and scoop it up, so they can go home and excitedly tell their family about the awesome play table they just got at the thrift store for $10.
And I felt sad seeing it sitting there. Even now, as I write this.
It’s not the silly ‘ole table that I miss, really; it’s the memories. And what that table represented over the past few years: my sons’ childhood.
I looked around at all the other pieces of furniture in the thrift store, imprinted with family memories, too. Furniture with a past.
And I know it’s just stuff. Things of which most have no true monetary value. But the fact is that these things at the thrift store were once a part of peoples’ lives.
Once we give them away, a little bit of us goes with it. Whether it’s the toddler clothes that our kids no longer fit, or the crib our big boys outgrew eons ago, or the bedroom suit that grandparents owned for years and is donated when they pass away.
Surely we can’t hoard everything. We have to purge and make room for other cool things in our life. But we have to remember to value and cherish our things while we own them, because they’re the things around which memories of our life will form. Some things, along with the memories, we will pass down to our children and grandchildren. Other things we have to let go of which may end up in thrift stores, where other people can lovingly own them and create new memories.
I’m still a little sad about giving away a piece of my children’s childhood, but one thing I do know: we’ll create a bunch more awesome memories with their new furniture that Mommy build for them!
Have you ever felt bittersweet about donating something to the thrift store? Leave a comment below and share your story!