first-hand accounts of second-hand shopping

My mother arrived on Saturday and overall it’s been a much better experience than I had imagined. I was worried that she would veto my second-hand couch (she didn’t) or tell me to cut my hair because it’s long and I look like I’m in labor already (she hasn’t). It’s like her descent upon my house has created a filter in which I see things through her furrowed brow, even though there haven’t been complaints, I have been waiting for the moment she says, “Where is the tea I did not ask for! Why didn’t you know I wanted that!”

Monday was the 50% off sale at Value Village, a thrift store that I frequent because I love to save money! My mother, however, believes that second-hand anything is of poor quality and that her youngest daughter shouldn’t be there. I told her that most of the baby clothes I have amassed for the baby came from generous friends and she said, “Make sure their house isn’t dirty!” That doesn’t make sense for a number of reasons, but more importantly, it shouldn’t matter where the clothes came from because WE HAVE A WASHER AND DRYER.

My mother’s idea of used clothing stems from the idea of shame, that it’s shameful to scavenge through someone else’s closet and worse yet, pay money for it. My mother’s world is separated into low-class and high-class. Williams-Sonoma is high-class. Value Village, not so high on that spectrum. It’s not that she doesn’t like a sale, she loves JC Penney and will tell me how much she spent on a turtleneck, but to her, the clothing was new and someone’s dirty armpits didn’t rub against the fabric before she purchased it.

I do not have any of those deep-rooted hang-ups and so when the sale came, I brought her with me.

I had warned her that the store might smell funny to her, Chanel no. 5 doesn’t waft in through vents (and if it did I would bolt out of there because that perfume stinks to me). She shrugged and said she didn’t mind. Even though I knew she did, I had no choice. I couldn’t just leave her at home, especially since she is going to spend so much time there. So she followed along, checking out housewares while I rifled through the newborn racks.

But the whole worrying about how she would feel and explaining to her that it’s not so bad to buy second-hand clothing because if you look into your closet THOSE CLOTHES ARE ALL USED, TOO had just killed my thrifting buzz. I didn’t even have the heart to tell her how I go about selecting the clothes (first brand, then size, then quality, then price). I just took a handful of Baby Gap, Zutano, Hanna Andersson and Gymboree shirts and sleepers along with some board books and headed to the cashier.

The cashier was explaining to another woman about what was on sale that day, the two of them speaking in Spanish. So then when she finished her conversation and I placed the baby books on the counter, my mother announced, “LOS LEBBBBLOS PARAHHHH LOS NIÑOOOOS!” She was already grinning wildly when I shot her a look because I was pretty sure that the cashier knew what I was buying and perhaps didn’t need it TRANSLATED.

You see, my mother doesn’t speak Spanish TO Spanish-speaking people, she speaks Spanish AROUND Spanish-speaking people (Yo momma’s so bi-lingual, when she speaks Spanish around the house, she speaks Spanish AROUND THE HOUSE!) She takes any opportunity to throw in Spanish words, which is easy enough because our native language Chamorro is heavily derived from Spanish. BUT STILL! I would like to go to one store without hearing her in the background chiming, “COMO ESTAS USTED!? I’m not Spanish! HAHAHA! I am from Saipan! LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT IT!”

But if that’s the biggest gripe I have, my mother’s rampant bi-lingual conversing with strangers and being a quirky ambassador for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, then I guess I’m in good shape. Holla! I mean, HOLA!

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  1. What does it mean that my white-as-white Dutch mother likes to throw in Spanish words from time to time, and incorrectly pronounced, at that? Every time she says, “ExcelAUNTay!,” I think a chihuahua puppy is kicked in the head.

    Sounds like this visit with your mom is going OK, though, yes? Will I see you on Saturday at Six Arms?

  2. At least she knows conversational Spanish. How awkward would it be if all she knew were swear words? Think on that…

  3. Oh dear lord! She hasn’t been here but a week and you’ve already had the first Spanish-speaking-with-a-stranger? My sympathies.

    Wanna really mess with her mind? When she’s trying something on at JC Penney, tell her that she’s probably not the first person to have done so. And they don’t wash their clothes between visitors! Ewwww!

  4. It sounds like it’s going swimmingly, Mona. I wish I could say the same over here, but there’s no meltdown as of yet.



  5. Have that baby Mona! I wanna meet him!!

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