Nothing says Christmas spirit of giving like driving to a thrift store to buy oneself something fun when one should be shopping for others.
As I parked in front of the Salvation Army downtown Minneapolis, any guilt I might have felt skittered away like an errant snowflake on a sunny day. This excursion would be quick. Just one sweep through the store to check out the goods. Only five minutes needed to see if they were selling the table lamp I wanted, then I would focus on everyone else again.
My desired lamp was of the statue or sculpture variety—the kind with characters on the base doing something interesting—and in a pinch, even cherubs could work. The item would include (but was not limited to) the following specifications: off-white ceramic, a neoclassical look, kitschy.
Inside the front door of Salvation Army, I sniffed. People often likened the odor of a thrift store to a musty basement. But to me, the cast-offs of strangers smelled like inspiration, adventure, and today, the hope of heaven in a light fixture.
Once past the kitchen wares, I made a beeline for the lamp section. So many options, so little time. But wait. Could that be what I thought it was up there on the top shelf? Was it even possible? Yes.
The lamp. Soon my lamp.
A cream-colored ceramic sculpture of a boy holding a basket formed its base. A wonderfully gaudy piece. Perfection.
I clicked a photo of the prize and shot it to Flicka via text. What do you think of this?
Her response was immediate. I’ve always wanted one like that. How much?
Oooh. A steal.
Hers was all the encouragement I needed. I eased the lamp—heavier than I expected—off the top shelf. As I pulled it into my arms, however, its cord tangled with that of another, and down came the light attached to it. Crash!
On the store’s carpeting—too skimpy to have cushioned the impact—lay shards of glass from the lamp that had once lived next to mine.
Cradling my treasure, I found an employee in another aisle. “I broke a lamp. So sorry. Of course I’ll pay for it.”
“No big deal,” he said, following me to the scene of the accident. He crouched to scoop up the pieces. “Happens all the time. You don’t need to pay.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, for real.”
I thanked him and strode to the nearby testing station, screwed a light bulb into my baby, and plugged it in. It glowed, and I think I did too.
As I paid, I thought of my new lamp and what our bright future might look like together. As I walked out to the car, I pictured Husband rolling his eyes at my dreamy find but my girls smiling. They would definitely smile.
I stood the lamp on its base in the back seat, propped a bag next to it, and drove off. My thoughts skipped back to the Christmas shopping list, the few things I still needed to purchase for the family, and when I could wrap the gifts I would buy.
I rounded the final corner to our house, but something in the back shifted. A rustle of a bag. A light scratching. Thump!
I put the car into park in front of our house and hopped out. I opened the back seat’s door, reached for the bag and—
My new lamp had tipped over—why hadn’t I laid it down?—and there on the floor in the back was sculpture boy’s head and basket, separated from his body. No!
Maybe there was still hope. Maybe I could glue it. But the beheading had sprinkled tiny ceramic chips everywhere. All was lost. I sighed.
The only time my secondhand delight spent in our house was the time it took to pass through it to its big black grave in the alley. I snapped a picture of the deceased before dropping the lid once again.
Two lamps broken in one day was no fluke. Was there a moral to this story? Of course there was. And in my heart I already knew it: one should be more careful transporting breakables when one shops for oneself at Christmastime.
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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.