56: Treasures in Trash

56: Treasures in Trash

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

Treasures in Trash

Ours is a culture and a time immensely rich in trash as it is in treasures.

~Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

My mother’s inspiration didn’t come from traditional places. In fact, most of her masterpieces started out as someone’s trash. Literally.

As Mom would drive us through the neighborhood, we’d hear the screeching sound of brakes stopping the big green monster (the fifteen-passenger van my mom drove until the wheels fell off). We’d pull up to a house. If we were lucky, one of our friends didn’t live there.

All eight of us would close our eyes and pretend to be asleep. “Okay, we’re here!” my mom would exclaim, as if she owned the home we had just pulled up to. “If we all work together, we’ll have this stuff moved in fifteen minutes.”

Everything with my mom consisted of “fifteen minutes.” As in, “I’m almost there; I’ll be there in fifteen minutes,” or, “If you took fifteen minutes to [insert activity that will probably better your future or you as a person], you wouldn’t be dealing with this.”

We would continue “sleeping,” hoping to avoid trash duty. The next thing we knew, our silence was met with “Well, I thought we’d go to the pool tomorrow, but I see no one wants to go . . .” Ah, yes, the pool. The Southfield Civic Center was where we spent our hot Michigan summers. Now we were fighting to get out of the van. It didn’t matter if friends saw us absconding with their trash, there was swimming at stake.

We’d pile tables, chairs, and old pictures in the van. We grabbed whatever caught my mother’s eye. The funny thing is, my mother could have easily afforded to buy these things brand-new, but I believe the artist in her liked the challenge of the hunt and turning trash into treasure. And that’s exactly what she did.

Boring tables would be beautiful after she put her touch on them. Bookshelves would get new paint, and chairs would get refurbished and reupholstered. Our garage sales were always a hit. I remember thinking to myself, If only these people knew they were buying back some of their old stuff!

As an adult, I attribute my love of thrifting to learning at an early age that one person’s trash truly is another person’s treasure. My mother and I still enjoy thrifting to this day. Thankfully, we now do our thrifting in stores. The key to thrifting is to not look at what things are, but to look at what things can become.

~Candace L. Parker

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