By that I mean you'll see the same 1970s stoneware dishes, the same coffee mugs that say, "World's Greatest Fisherman," the same Andy Williams or Herb Alpert LPs. I go in trying to find something different so I've got a practiced eye at mentally sorting the everyday from the exceptional.
I can be surprised. A few years ago I went looking for a nice photo frame. I found what I wanted and when I got it home took a good look at it. What I thought was the original advertising print in the frame was actually a school photo of a pretty high school girl.
I don't have any idea who she is, or why her family donated her picture to a thrift store. Stuff like that happens occasionally, and it's probably some sort of mistake. I can't give back the picture because I don't know who she is.
She's a cutey, though, huh? Maybe 16 or 17-years-old, nice broad forehead, connoting smarts--probably an AP or 4.0 student--pretty brown eyes, nice chin, but an especially pretty smile. Young woman, I'm sure when you turned that smile on to expose the $4000 worth of work on your teeth that you melted hearts from one end of the school to the other.
I don't know how to date this picture. Probably early '90s; the moussed hair is a clue, but you figure it out.
A couple of years later the same scenario. I'm looking for a frame and come across this picture. What the--! This one I spotted immediately as a family picture. It even came with a name on the back and maybe someday I'll google that name and see if I can locate the subject.
It appears to be from the late '40s or early '50s. You just gotta love the Yankee outfit! I tried to sell this on eBay a couple of years ago, shamelessly listing it with the name Yankees prominent in the headline, but I had no bidders. I guess Yankee fans don't want pictures of babies dressed up like Babe Ruth, but to me it gives new meaning to the nickname, "The Bambino."
Looking at these pictures makes me feel like I do about my feral cat, Little Brother. I'm the caretaker, not the owner. Family pictures are so intensely personal. They mean something to the family, very little to anyone else. Still, I like the subjects in both these pictures. I see hundreds of high school girls every day in the course of my job and I don't really take much notice because there are so many of them, but there is something about the frozen moment aspect of a photograph, the attention to the subject that school photos specialize in, as well as that pretty smile that draws me back to this picture.
I've already talked about how many baby boomers there are in this country, and this little Yankee Boy looks like he fit in with my generation. His mom took him to the photo studio and proudly put him on a stool and told him to look at the birdie and smile. Awwwwww, how cute he looks, she thought. Then years later she's dead, he's an executive with IBM living in Hong Kong; someone cleans out her stuff, selling it in an estate sale. The new owner looks at this picture along with the van load of other stuff he got at the sale, says, "What the hell do I do with this?" He tosses it in his junk box. From there the picture makes its way into the donation pile at my local thrift store, and I buy someone else's memory for 50¢.
Ciao for now, El Postino