dazzling and interesting on a shoestring
Or how the destitute and obscure find treasures for free.
Yesterday, I was driving my ol’ jalopy home from mother’s group, through the carefully manicured streets of our ‘hood, when I spied, lurking quietly yet shining like diamonds in the sunshine, two small lamps on the edge of my friend, Sally’s, driveway. They were understated in styling with perfect lampshades and meticulously wound cords. Gems– jewels in wood and linen, left unwanted on the curb! Every few weeks, various charities leave bright colored fliers on our doorstep, in the mailbox or jammed in the front door handle requesting donations. I have the odd t-shirt here and there, but mostly, when my clothes are done, they’re barely worth the rags their torn into. I confess to mending t-shirts just to make them last longer. But many of the neighbors have been seen to place the odd trash bag on the curb to wait idly for an unmarked white truck to cruise through on the appointed day and take it away to a new home. Now, I know that it’s considered ‘illegal’ to swipe stuff intended for charity pick-up, and it’s even considered a crime heinous enough to warrant calling the police if you see someone prowling around on the bi-annual neighborhood ‘Dump the Big Crap’ pick-up. They even have nifty day-glo stickers you can apply in order to ward off predators. We confess to swiping a wooden stool and flicking through a box of records containing nothing but Air Supply’s early hits, and Anne Murray’s entire repertoire We took nothing, since we’re vinyl snobs and only snatch slightly unknown but worthwhile blues and jazz. If it’s free, feel free to pass it up. I’ve also run off with a dirty but extremely well-made dining chair in the middle of the night; I sang the theme song to ‘Mission Impossible’ as I loaded it into the back of my station wagon.
But I digress. The point being, I don’t have so much pride that I am above parking said jalopy and walking up Sally’s walk and knocking on her door to inquire about the two gorgeous lamps. After all, she is donating to the poor, and I certainly qualify. So I knocked, and fortunately she was home.
“Hi, Sally,” I said. “I was wondering about those two lamps on the edge of your driveway.”
“Oh, yeah,” she said. “Do you want them?” Oh, hell yeah! I wanted to say, and while I may not be to proud to beg, I’m not so poor that I can’t afford manners. Ain’t nobody too poor for that, or too rich, either. “Yes, thank you,” I said.
And after Sally assured me that they were both fine and in proper working order, including referencing their pedigrees as early model Ikea, I thanked her and loaded both of them up in the back seat. They amused my preschooler and now my husband has a working bedside light.
In a previous round of charity donations, I knocked on Jill’s door and became the new owner of a bright colored booster seat for my then-toddler. In return, I keep her in mind when I’m getting rid of childrens clothing that’s too small. Her child is about six months younger than mine. And they also fit quite nicely into the neighborhood circle, since some of those clothes are from my friend Ana, whose child is six months older than mine– and thanks to her, we had a darling outfit for Easter. Not only was it free, but it was nothing like anything from any department store or boutique. In fact, it came from overseas as a gift. I love recycling clothes!
Other nifty freebies with which I have graced my house and body include ex-boyfriends flannels, which I’ve kept forever, free books being discarded from the library (and for less than $5 you can get a few slightly more interesting books and give to a worthy cause– more on the beauties of public libraries to come), cast-off yarn and fabric scraps from other people’s projects (which make fantastic funky blankets and scarves when you’ve got a minute or a mini-series– stay tuned for more of those crafty tips in a later post) and the odd child’s toy. In fact my child is apparently so adorable (or I am in such obvious need of charity, despite the fact that I don’t dress us in rags to belabor the point) that many people can’t help themselves and give us toys– amusing, but much appreciated.
Ain’t too proud to beg, and I got a lotta good loot in the bargain. One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure. So if it’s free and you like it, ask for it. If you don’t want it any more, pass it along and wait for that good karma to come cruisin’ around the bend. Ciao, and happy hunting!