Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bear Hug

New Houses, New Clothes, by D.H. Lawrence

New houses, new furniture, new streets,
new clothes, new sheets
everything new and machine-made
sucks life out of us
and makes us cold, makes us lifeless
the more we have.

When my Spouse and myself lived in our beloved small town in California I became quite a thrift store virtuoso. And no wonder: every street, even that which we lived on, had a thrift store of some quality or another. I would pass at least three on my way home from college every evening and characteristically stopped in to all of them at least once a week. Books for 25 cents: it was a long-ago pleasure that feels like a vague and wonderful dream I had. I hope someday I can experience that exhilaration once again.

One afternoon near to Christmas, I visited, on foot, my friend who worked just outside the town. She offered to drive me home after she closed up and finished work. I waited with her and then we went downstairs together. There was a marvellous thrift store immediately underneath where she worked. I did not attend it very often as it was slightly out of my way. We both browsed around for a few minutes; my friend, working just above, knew the staff there and was also having a pleasant chat with them. I noticed a charming little porcelain ornament on a shelf: two bears, wrapped in winter hats and scarves, were snuggled together and appeared to be skating on ice.

I wavered. It was a dollar. Even in the days when I was not at all frugal I still had become well versed on what I should expect to pay for an item in a thrift store. I thought it was a high price, considering that that it was a used item, and that I only had two dollars on me for which needed to ride the bus to college the following day.

Yes, I dithered, I hesitated. I weighed it up in my mind: how pretty was it?
Would I use it? I could give it to a friend, perhaps. I could suspend it from our Christmas tree. It was very pleasing to the eye and when I touched the bears' winter clothes it felt as though they were made of some soft material and not merely painted on.

As I vacillated, my friend came and stood beside me. "Oh, how lovely!" she breathed. "Isn't it irresistible? I think I'll take it. Yes, I will. I'll take it."

She scooped it up, my precious bear ornament, and carried it to the counter. My mouth hung open. I could not move. I was stunned at her vicious swooping in and her apparent disregard of my feelings. I fumed inwardly. I think I was particularly angry at myself for giving so much thought to something so little and inexpensive. So much so that I had lost it. Of course, then I longed even more for it. I asked myself all the right questions but the item in question was not worth the consideration: I should have just secured the bear ornament there and then.

My friend loudly rejoiced in her purchase. I steamed silently. We exited the store and I pined for the loss and castigated myself for my inability to decide on even the most trivial of things.

Instead of driving me home, my friend suggested we go to her house in the woods. I might, she asked, help her to wrap her family's Christmas gifts as she has difficulty with her fingers and in performing delicate tasks.

I agreed, magnanimously of me, I thought, to assist her.

When she made me some food and when I started to have an enchanting time I felt awfully contrite for thinking such parsimonious thoughts. As I said her house is in the woods and in the mountains of Northern California and, being days from Christmas, it was an utterly fetching place to be.

At the close of our time together when I had to go home and prepare the evening meal for my Spouse, my friend drove me to my door. As I began to exit the car, she triumphantly presented me with a pocket-sized, brightly wrapped package.

"I saw how much you liked it. That's why I bought it!" she beamed as I ripped open the token innocently, shortly thereafter feeling my heart sink to the sole of my shoe. I have never felt like such a self-indulgent low-life in all my born years. I am comforted, though, by the fact that she was not at all aware of my turmoil and that she was bestowed with great gratification to share the ornament with somebody who would appreciate it.

There is a far greater pleasure in giving gifts than in receiving them. I now try to remember that more faithfully.

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