Goodwill Hunting

I love shopping at Goodwill. Even when I have lots of money, when I have money spilling out of my biggest purse and stuffed in all my pockets, down my bra, and in the folds of my neck. Even when I can afford to go to the Ann Taylor store in the mall or the black and white store at City Place with all the Palm Beach society types with their tiny Beanie-Baby-sized dogs in their own Coach bags. Even when I have vowed to finally pay full price for something in Macy’s, something with a nice label on it, something that I don’t have to worry that if I wear it to WalMart I won’t see it on the end rack for $8.88.

I’d rather be with the fine folks at Goodwill.

Yesterday my daughter and I went to our Jupiter Goodwill store, which is great. She thinks it’s a little too nice, not “Goodwilly” enough because things are neatly hung on racks and there are changing rooms where the mirrors are not cracked in half. Things are roughly divided by sizes. It doesn’t smell.

She’s an atmosphere shopper. If the atmosphere doesn’t trip her trigger, then she doesn’t want anything that the atmosphere has to offer.

But even though it’s dangerously close to being like a regular store, I love it there. I donate a trunk full of our old junk and then pull around front and park the car, go in and buy a back seat full of other people’s junk. It’s like the circle of life for non-living things.

Yesterday I got a pair of Jones of New York black and white print cropped pants that fit me perfectly. And a black sleeveless ribbed turtleneck with the $48 tag still on it - both for a total of $15. Then I picked up a sundress in a dragonfly print (my daughter says they’re mosquitos) for $5.99. These are perfectly good clothes and I don’t feel bad at all - are you listening, dear? - about the fact that they may have been worn by someone else. I apparently am not equipped with much pride at all.

I’ve shopped at Goodwill stores that were one crocheted toilet paper cover away from being someone’s curb. You had to root around in stacks of clothes on rickety folding tables to find a bargain, and then you wanted to wash your hands when you were done.

When I was growing up, though, we didn’t have much money at all and my mom was just the opposite. Barely able to pay the bills, we shopped at Livingston’s, which was an upscale women’s dress shop for pretty much all of our school clothes. My sister says it’s because my mom had a charge account at Livingston’s and she would just charge everything and worry about it tomorrow. But still, she could have saved a bunch of money if she had spent less time in Livingston’s, McKelvey’s and Strauss’ and more time in Hill’s, Zayres and Goodwill.

I think I first discovered second-hand clothes when I was in college and my friend John and I went to the Salvation Army thrift shop to look for Halloween costumes. He found a pale lavender leisure suit, bought it and went as one of our journalism professors. (I couldn’t find anything for Halloween so borrowed my roommate’s cave woman costume and put a turkey leg bone in my hair) But while we were looking for clothes to make fun of, we started to realize that this smelly, dirty, skanky store was full of clothes not to make fun of but to wear proudly.

My big score was a gray wool Salvation Army uniform jacket, like the kind the bell ringers wear except it was from the 1930s or ‘40s. It had these huge shoulder pads and it went sharply in at the waist. You could have cut yourself on the angles on this thing. I looked like Lana Turner in it. I wore it to class with jeans.

Years later, I was living in North Canton, Ohio, and I discovered a thrift shop that had thousands of shoes for $3. Honestly, for that price, they didn’t even have to fit very well. I found these flats in a gold-ish mesh that, again, I could wear with jeans. I bought them and was wearing them for about the 20th time when a woman I know, whose son played with my son, looked down and saw them and said, “I love your shoes. I used to have a pair just like them. . . Actually they were exactly like them . . . Actually . . ." and then she looked up at me, our eyes met and I knew that she knew that I knew she had donated them to the thrift store and I paid $3 for them.

Busted. I felt a little sheepish then. Now, I wouldn’t care. You can go ahead and pay full price for your own Jones of New York pants and your mosquito dress, I’ll be fine with these clothes I picked up with the change I found in the car seat cushions.

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