Every now and then, I like to look back to who I once was. Do you ever do this? Go through photo albums, old journals, long lost relationships and think about who you were then versus who you are now? I think the greatest thing that can be taken from such things is the ability to monitor change. To measure where you came from and see if you ended up where you wanted to.
A few years ago, I started to write articles for a parenting column online. It was my first step into writing as a professional while also being a mother. While I always considered myself a writer, I had a hard time reconciling that with the fact that I was now this other woman. I recently re-read some of these articles and it was so interesting to me to hear a voice that sounded so different than mine now. I recognize the words I wrote, but I was altogether another human at that time. Here is one of the articles that struck me the most. Partly because it still resonated as true, partly because I read it and feel a sense of nostalgia that is a bit surprising. Regardless, I find comfort in the past and use it to inspire me for the future.
“It is 8:00 am on a Saturday morning, Los Angeles. It is summer and the deceivingly cool temperatures force a sweater over arms and change the latte order from iced to hot. As any resident of the valley knows, the low hanging clouds are tricky and temperamental: they will vanish in the blink of an eye and you will be left wilting in the unforgiving sun and cursing the very reason out-of-towners flock here in droves. Yet, you continue on, pushing your jogging stroller across blocks of concrete, through intersection after intersection, passing chain coffee shops and all-natural grocery stores, ignoring the stick of fabric on the sides of your torso. You are on a mission. You will not be deterred. It is, after all, garage sale day.
There is one piece of advice rarely given to new parents: shop secondhand. Aside from a handful of essentials, most baby items can be bought at thrift stores, consignment shops and, yes, garage sales. Don’t me wrong, I love the fancy designer sheets and I have been known to lose hours on such websites as ohdeedoh, poring over the latest and greatest in children’s design. However, I can guarantee you will not find the same satisfaction as you do when you come upon a house where the retired first grade teachers are selling their outdated workbooks and flashcards. There is a slight heart palpitation that occurs only upon learning that the tiny working cash register with a scanner (!) is only fifty cents. FIFTY CENTS.
The greatest achievement of shopping secondhand, however, has nothing to do with monetary value. When you bring your toddler with you on such an adventure, you are teaching them an irreplaceable life lesson: respect. It takes tact to comb through another person’s belongings and decide what you think it is worth. There is grace in learning how to politely decline when you feel that their asking price is too much and beauty in the repurposing of something useful. There is an inherent sense of community in walking up to a person’s house and having them smile at your toddler while she learns what to touch, what to treasure, what to love. And you cannot put a price on the smile of an 18 month old girl hugging a fuzzy Christmas stocking with a teddy bear sewn haphazardly on top in the middle of August.
This is the pot of gold.”