Finding myself short a few items of weather-appropriate clothing on a trip recently, I walk across the highway from my mom-and-pop hotel to a Goodwill store with bins, where you can purchase clothing by the pound.
Shopping in this way is something of an adventure. You never know what you will find and the store atmosphere can produce an unusual level of camaraderie, as customers help one another search for desired items. Getting to one bin, opposite a slight woman about ten years my senior, I offer her the pristine white knit shirt I have found, thinking it might be a little snug for me.
“Do you think you could use this?” I ask her.
With her hand hugging a child’s crinoline tutu, she looks up at me from her sorting, “No, I think it might be a little loose on me.” And, then the conversation starts,
“Can you believe that my daughter is removing all of the princess stuff from my granddaughter’s room? She just started at the Waldorf School and they want her to develop her own identity.”
I laugh, “Well, you are talking to something of a Montessori-Waldorf person, so I am not sure I can comment with impartiality. But, I can say—having grown up on a diet of animated princesses—even after having completed college, not having prince charming to rescue and support me was a bit of a shock. So, maybe it will be best for your granddaughter in the long run, and best for her future partner, too. They can share the task of supporting a household together.”
“I suppose you are right. It just makes it really hard…”
“To be a grandmother?”
“Yes, to be a grandmother,” her voice becomes reflective.
“I think the dress you have could be the official costume for a professional dancer.
Maybe approaching the gift from that angle would be easier on everyone….It really is a matter of culture. I have a relative attending private school who came home one day and announced that she needed to marry a wealthy man. There was a pretty good discussion about helping her revise that notion. But the culture of that specific school setting was all about modeling that paradigm. So, how could she know anything else?”
“Yes. I see what you mean. I suppose it will be fine.”
Nodding to one another, we move on. A few bins later, a ruggedly handsome outdoorsman says, “Hey, if you see a crushable puffer coat, let me know. I need it for camping.”
“Okay,” I look up from the last of my sorting.
Five dollars and five items later, the vigilant wind assists me in opening the front door and the scattering of sleet. The air outside is cold and inviting. Turning to the west, I see the sun dip in the sky.