Thrifters of the Lost Childhood

You sift through the rubble, carefully... meticulously... perspiration beading on your brow.

You know that it’s out there... somewhere. And you will not… cannot... rest until your quest has come to a close.

So you scan. And sort. And leave every site unearthed, but empty-handed.

You may go through this same process for days... months... years… before that unforgettable moment when your heart gives its jolt of recognition...

There, amidst the remnants of forgotten trends and broken promises, your eyes fall upon the treasure you’d presumed lost to decades and despair. You have recaptured it...

That missing bit of your childhood.

Oh, maybe it was the beloved stuffed bear your mother decided you’d outgrown when you were seven. Perhaps the Easy Bake Oven you’d asked Santa Claus for decades ago-- but never found under your tree. Or the comics that symbolized action and imagination-- but you’d sold in an unthinking moment to gain some extra cash.

If thrift stores are a source of new joys, they’re also a source for rediscovering what we’ve missed, or longed for. And a way to share those memories with a whole new generation.

Two good friends have found themselves thrifting hardcover Nancy Drews in this sort of recovery mission. For one, it’s rebuilding a collection lost after a stressful divorce. For another, it’s finally owning the books she rabidly read from the library, but couldn’t afford herself.

One fellow thrifter told a tale where Weebles-- those egg-shaped folks who “wobble but they don’t fall down,” remember them? ---were thrifted and passed down from father to daughter, beginning a whole new cycle of happy memories.

And my own recent thrift score of a book of 60s paper dolls made me wonder how many adult women still think fondly about their hours spent cutting out and dressing these fashionable little ladies-- but were parted from them by years, new homes, or a simple need for space? They’re only THINGS, after all. Just THINGS...

But things with memories attached do seem to weigh more.

For me, I admit blushingly my quest involves a younger Harrison Ford. Once my pre-teen mind came to grasp that Han Solo and Indiana Jones were, indeed, one and the same fellow (I was a little slow on the uptake), my minor obsession began.

I recall standing in Two-Guys Department Store coveting, in particular, a 12-inch Indiana Jones figure.

Who needed Ken when Barbie could have a swashbuckling Dr. Jones? (Anyway, my only Ken’s leg had been amputated by my younger cousin in a misguided surgery attempt. I think Ken’s relationship with Barbie suffered after that.)

But at fifty-cents a week allowance, saving up for such a purchase took some serious time. And in spite of will-power and waiting, Dr. Jones was sold out before I ever had the cash in hand.

Barbie and I both felt the pain of that one.

This saga was all brought to mind recently, when recently my thrifting buddy-- knowing my long-time Ford-fondness-- approached me in the Goodwill with a small, slightly beaten box. “Do you want this?” she asked.

It was a 1984 “Adventures of Indiana Jones” role-playing game. Inside the box were stories, maps, character information and even the worksheets of the kid who’d owned it...

The kid who’d be about my age now.

My friend and I wondered if that kid even recalled the game, or knew it was gone. If he’d long moved out of his parents’ home into one filled with his own family, and left the game behind in the haste of his journey toward shining adulthood. We wondered if “gramma” hadn’t simply decided to do a bit of down-sizing, and one day the game’s exact whereabouts would be a mystery to them all.

I took the game up to the register surrounded by a fog of reminiscence, wondering if someday that elusive Indiana Jones figure would find himself in the thrifts, as well. Maybe a little worn. A little tired. Missing his hat or bullwhip. But still strong, dashing and ready for anything.

And that’s the real adventure; you never know when it comes to thrifting. It’s all out there somewhere. All you have to do is look.