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#75 One Man's Trash, That's Another Man's Come Up

Here's something that will probably sound like I've hit peak Brooklyn: After dropping off my compost at the Green Market, I strolled through Carroll Gardens – listening to a podcast about Anti-fat Bias – and happened upon an Antique Store.

I feel like Sandra Bullock or Diane Keaton might come stumbling out of here.

I love browsing through stores like this. What caught me first was the furniture outside – all mid-century modern that looked like it might have once been at home in the public library or an accountant's office. There were empty bottles, vintage signs, and old suitcases. A kid who couldn't have been more than twelve was pawing through boxes of old record albums. He let out an audible squeal and I wondered what on earth he'd found in there that could make him so happy, but I was too busy contemplating a box marked "Jimmy Carter Wind-Up Peanuts " to ask.

Good Lord, they did not give that guy* a break. The likeness in uncanny, though.

I stepped inside and meandered through the shop, completely transported back to my parent's living room, my grandparent's apartment, the playground at school. The bookshelves reminded me that we'd once had what I think was a near complete set of Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Mysteries novels. There was a whole display of mugs and steins stamped with the logos of the liquor we sold at Fiddler's Green. When my parents retired and moved to a smaller house, we discovered boxes of these along with about a hundred framed bar mirrors proclaiming that the King of Beers and Genessee 12-Horse were sold there.

I was thrilled and a little nostalgic when I came across Grease trading cards and an "autograph book" from 1986. I completely forgot they existed. This one belonged to a girl named Andrea and was filled with notes in the loopy handwriting of (probably) 6th-graders. "Have a great summer!" and "Good Luck at St. Marys!" And, my favorite:

"Dear Andy, Good luck in school! I don't care what others say I'll miss you. Your (sic) the prettiest in the grade. Keep your looks. Love, Mary G."

Way to throw shade, Mary G!

I was disappointed no one had thought to skip to the last page and write, "By hook or by crook, I'll be last in your book."

It's only on later inspection that I'm seeing the Three's Company, Mork & Mindy, and Kojak cards! I wonder if the gum is still good?

I briefly considered buying some jewelry, especially since it was displayed on a plus-sized mannequin and I felt very seen at that moment. But then I was dazzled by a display of Christmas ornaments that I couldn't resist.

I used to really love decorating for Christmas, getting a tree and decorating my place with a mix of hand-me-down ornaments and stuff I probably spent a small fortune on at the Bryant Park Christmas Markets. But over the last few years I've skipped decorating in favor of international travel – leaving town on December 26 and spending a few weeks somewhere preferably warm. Coming home in January with jet lag and a suitcase full of dirty clothes was one thing. But the idea of being met with a clean-up project involving a dead tree and the meticulous re-boxing of hundreds of tiny breakables did not spark joy in my life. So, when I made the move from Manhattan to Brooklyn, my Christmas decorations went the way of my record collection – donated to the local Salvation Army.

This year is different, obviously. International travel isn't on the horizon. And I don't have that "I'm so swamped at work who has time for decorating??" vibe going on. So, I figured why the hell not?

I started small. Some fairy lights from Target to add a little magic to the place. Once those were up, I decided on a tree – a little baby table-top guy from Wegman's. He sort of looks like Santa Claus – squat, round, with a bulging mid-section. I dressed it with lights, some mini candy canes, and a silver bone inscribed "Delilah" while I watched a Norwegian Christmas Rom Com. I keep adding things to it: a butterfly clip, a red fascinator that I last wore to brunch in New Orleans, a gold crown. It's cute, but it's missing something. It's got no personality.

See? Santa Claus, right?

When I saw the vintage ornaments in the shop, I knew I'd found the thing that would make my baby tree special. I don't know how old anything is- maybe from the 80s. The colors were amazing – bright pink, deep red, pale blue with glitter, sparkles, a nativity scene. I scooped up a bunch and protected them all the way home.

Aren't they just grand?

I was about to start hanging them on the tree when I realized how dirty they must be. God, they're probably teeming with COVID and Lord knows who's been fondling them in that shop!

So, I washed them.

CRAP. Crap, crap, crappity, crap.

I felt terrible about it for a few minutes, berating myself for doing such a dumb thing (THIS is why you can't have anything nice!). But, then I remembered that I had a great day and that finding these ornaments and all the other stuff in that shop was just as good, if not better, than actually having the ornaments.

And, I can always go back....


*I'm assuming we all know now that Jimmy Carter, a one-term president who was perceived a failure in his time, is now widely considered to have set the standard for post-presidency life and service. He's a humanitarian, an environmentalist, and an effective ambassador for the US. Fun fact: In 1978, Carter signed a federal law legalizing home brewing!

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