Saturday, October 9, 2021

It IS a Small World After All

Lately I've been having small-world encounters. You know, like when you’re at a large conference with people from all over the country and you get to talking with the person next to you who is from another state, and after a bit you figure out her daughter is your next door neighbor. (Yup, that actually happened, but it was years ago, so it doesn’t count for now.)

A few weeks ago I got to talking to a good old boy at a sale, and we discovered we were both from Missouri, though he was a recent transplant to Oregon and I left Kansas City at the age of 10. We had a nice chat; he seemed a bit homesick but willing to give Oregon a chance because his wife likes it here. My favorite part was when he said, “You know what I really miss about Missouri?” There was a pause as a myriad of possibilities raced through my mind…the rolling hills? Sweet German wines? The Ozarks? Grasshoppers? Fields of corn? “No, what?” I encouraged.

“Red potatoes,” he said. “We never have red potatoes any more.”

I managed not to laugh, wondering if his wife prefers Yukon Golds and has convinced him it's all she can find here. “Ummm, that’s my favorite too, and most grocery stores have them.” He looked pleased and we went on our ways. I've wondered since if his wife has relented and fed him red potatoes, but I'll never know.

My latest example actually happened at the grocery store, and came about because I was wearing my favorite jacket, which came from a yard sale (of course). I remember the sale where I found it, but not the year; had to be between 2001 when I moved to Orange County, and 2005 when I started my garaging spreadsheet (it's not on even the earliest pages). It's a floral print barn jacket from now-defunct Smith & Hawken, who purveyed rather upscale gardening tools, clothes, and household goods. 

Made of a heavy cotton fabric; originally the collar and cuffs were dark red corduroy, but I covered them with some scraps of silk I had in my stash.

It's one of those season-spanning garments that you wear and wear and wear, and the mix of colors means it goes with just about everything. I remember paying $3 for it. I cherish the memory of wearing it at another sale where a woman declaimed loudly, “That’s the exact same fabric I have on my sofa!” Everyone shopping on her driveway slewed around to stare at what well-dressed sofas were wearing.

Anyway, I love this jacket. And so did another grocery shopper yesterday, who came up to me in the bulk foods aisle to tell me so. A compliment can be a great ice breaker, and before we knew it we were talking and laughing and comparing yard sale notes. We kept talking as we both headed to the bins of nuts, and both started to get bags of pecans. I said something like, “Aha, another pecan lover,” and she said, “Well, I’m from Oklahoma and that’s where they’re from.” I stopped dishing nuts. “I don't believe this – I'm from Oklahoma!” (It's where my family moved when we left Missouri.) We quickly ascertained we had lived in the same city, and since she was about my age I asked where she went to high school.

And would you believe that in a grocery store in Salem, Oregon, nearly 2000 miles and over 50 years away, we found we’d both graduated from the same school. Not the same year, she was there a bit before me, but she only went to that school for a year and a half, and I was there only for my senior year. Goodness, what are the odds?!

We talked and talked; it was wonderful. This is probably what I've missed most during the pandemic, just talking to people. We had to keep moving out of the way of folks who were trying to get to various bins. I'm sure they thought we were long lost sisters or something.

I've reaped many benefits over the years by thrifting; it's a habit that contributed enormously to my finances. But much more important than the stuff has been meeting so many interesting and entertaining people, both in person and through this blog.

Even at the grocery store!

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