Museum of Lost Desires

By , April 10, 2011

Haines has one of the best second hand stores you could ever want. Owned and operated by a friendly proprietor who really only does it to entertain himself in the off hours of his real job, caring for his aging parents, it is a treasure trove of ever-changing, capital S Stuff.

The store may or may not have an official name. It might be “The Garage Sale Store,” but most seem to call it for its owner, simply “Ralph’s.”

I love going there. We find a lot of things we need at prices we can afford; Ralph’s fun to visit with, as are the other customers, many of whom we know, some we’ve come to know after sharing a comfortable conversation among strangers in Ralph’s shop.

There’s a particular reason, though, that I appreciate the store. For me, it’s a Museum of Lost Desires.

I recently returned to the store after a long absence. Aly and I found a few things we needed, but I enjoyed the other items even more, things that I once had a keen interest in acquiring, but never got around to.

I love stuff. That makes it hard to be frugal. But, browsing The Garage Sale Store reminds me of just how far I’ve come.

That day I found a fancy, Italian style espresso maker that I’d seriously considered buying once upon a time, just before settling for my stove top espresso maker (also Italian, but far less intricate and expensive than the item I’d considered). Finding the machine at Ralph’s would have been a huge score, as whatever he was asking for it (I didn’t even look) would be a fraction of what I would have paid new back then.

I also found a mug that I’d once wanted rather badly, although not enough to buy it. The shape of it, and the drink it advertised (recipe included on the side of the mug) appealed to me once. I’d forgotten all about it until I saw it on the store shelf.

There are several shaving mugs in the store. When I began using an old-fashioned shaving brush, I searched for a mug much like these. Ralph’s prices are affordable, unlike what I found during my search. Since that time, I’ve settled on a plastic ware container that, while not as pretty and stylish as an antique shaving mug, does the job better, and can easily be sealed for travel. Michelle wanted me to choose one as a gift, but I declined—they’re beautiful, but I honestly don’t need one anymore.

The list goes on. Every visit reveals desirable objects from my former life. It’s nostalgic and somewhat bittersweet. Mostly sweet, as I am reminded of how many times I’ve foregone a purchase, and realize how little those acquisitions would mean to me now.

You will find a version of the essay above, as well as writing on similar and related topics in Sacred Coffee: A “Homesteader’s” Paradigm by Mark A. Zeiger, available in print, eBook, and audiobook editions. The published version will likely be expanded, clarified, or updated from what you have just read.

4 Responses to “Museum of Lost Desires”

  1. Helen Harris says:

    Mark, I think part of that can be attributed to age. I know that we buy far less stuff now. Can you imagine going to Hawaii and all I brought back was a tiny ceramic turtle, sold for $1 by a 4 yr. old girl. The only reason for buying it was to make her happy.

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    I’m sure you’re right, Mom. But, many of the things I’m finding at the store are things I wanted back in high school and college, that I decided against for some reason. That’s what makes me feel good!

    Mark

  3. Nance says:

    I enjoyed this. (humming) I love consignment shops and garage sales. We don’t find many estate sales here but auctions with real life auctioneers are common in the midwest — “Household” or “Farm” auctions are advertised weekly. I like things too . . . and collections of things seem to find me. 🙁 But finding a bargain no matter how; no matter what. That is what I especially like. PS: Nice Jacket!

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    Nance, I’ve only attended a few household or farm auctions, but I love them, and estate sales, because besides finding bargains and looking at “Stuff,” I get to poke around the grounds and house. Added value! I guess I’m just a pack rat AND a busybody at heart.

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