Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Gold Leaf Menagerie

I'm standing, flipping through the rack of new arrivals that's been left, haphazardly, in the middle of the main aisle at my local Salvation Army.

The rack and I completely block the way. An older woman in ill-fitting 80's style clothing in gaudy colors, stops next to me. Her oversized bag gets lost in the clothing rack as she squeezes into the aisle. Long, stringy, graying hair, a child's barrette pulling her bangs back over her forehead, she smiles a loose grin with a missing incisor, and warmly admits that she recognizes me. Yes, I've seen her around too.

"Come on over and have a sit with us." She motions with her head towards the chairs and couches for sale, placed around a worn-out coffee table with a $20 price tag. "You're a regular; you belong over here chatting with us. We have nice talks."

Yes, I visit this Salvation Army store a couple days a week. Yes, I'm a regular, but I'm not a chatting regular.

I check today's stash:
- a lovely, tastefully beaded black Alex Coleman vest. Maybe I'll wear it at Christmas.
- a long and lean, foot-long, wooden pig. It feels warm and seems to oink a golden oink at me. "Take me home, gold leaf me, I'm perfect," it says.
- a small and grimy child's school slate that might be old enough to be worth something, but I plan on gold leafing the border and chalking in something clever on the slate.
- a tiny wicker bird cage, about 3 inches tall, without a price tag.

I thank the lady for her invitation and quickly flip through the rest of the rack before moving on to the checkout counter. I chuckle over the thought of hanging out at the furniture section while the guy behind me in line picks his nose, and the young man in the red Salvation Army vest loudly sings along with Crocodile Rock playing on the stereo marked $15.00.

My beautiful vest and wooden pig are recorded in the cash register, treated as items equally worth taking home on an early Thursday afternoon. I love how a 40-year-old hand-beaded vest and a "Buy One/Get One Free on Brick-a-Brack" item receive the exact same nonchalant reaction from the counter lady. She picks up the tiny bird cage (also destined for gold). The rule is "No tag - No sale." She looks up, recognizes me, and pushes the cage towards me across the glass-topped jewelry-filled countertop. Conspiratorially, and with a smile and a sweet wrinkle of her nose, she says, "You just take that, Sweetie."

Glancing over at the furniture section I feel strangely honored by the earlier invitation. Of course there's no question that I want to buy these things. It's fine. I'm a regular.

Softly singing along to Crocodile Rock, I check my outfit, my bag. Pointing into the glass case I spy a little costume jewelry piece and say, "Can you show me that barrette?"
(More from the Gold Leaf Menagerie coming soon.)

No comments: