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A Revised History Of Old Junk

...because one person's trash is another's imagination fodder.

By Jessica ConawayPublished 3 years ago 8 min read
A Revised History Of Old Junk
Photo by allison christine on Unsplash

I have a secret.

For generations, the women in my family have shared a strange and mystical gift; an ancient power so rare and so magical that we scarcely ever speak about it in polite company. Through out the ages this gift has proved to be both a blessing and a burden, and it is often gravely misunderstood by our loved ones.

I come from a long line of women who are born with the inexplicable compulsion to own strangers' old junk, and we have the unique skill of spotting a good bargain in order to do so. My great grandmother filled her home with knick-knacks that had absolutely zero meaning to her; she just really liked wandering through the Goodwill down the street. My Nana had the uncanny ability to know the location of every single yard sale in any city she was in at any given time. And from the time she could talk, my cousin Erin was able to point to a piece of clothing in a thrift store and tell you exactly what was wrong with it; every rip, stain, or snag. Without fail.

And my gift? My gift manifested a little differently. I mean, sure, I instinctively know where all the yard sales are, and I have most certainly never left a thrift store empty-handed. But see...I am able to simply look at an object and know its full history: where it came from, who loved it before, how it ended up here...I just know. You know? That's my ability. I thrift, and I know things.

These are six cherished objects that I've collected over the years. If I may, I'd like to share their stories with you.


Found at Goodwill in the summer 2002. ($0.49)

The Interboro High School Class of '83 fought for weeks over the theme of their prom. Missy Etters, the captain of the Varsity cheerleading team, was adamant that it should be "All Night Long" (because Lionel Richie was a total babe), but that bitch Billie Ann Reed somehow got everybody to vote for "I've Loved These Days" instead because she heard somewhere that Billy Joel wrote that song about cocaine and she thought it would be funny. The prom was supposed to be held at the Della Fontana, but a tree destroyed the roof in April so it got moved last minute to Banquet Hall B at the Holiday Inn. Missy and that bitch Billie Ann both showed up wearing emerald green, but everyone said that Billie Ann's dress was like, totally grody and Missy looked way prettier. Dave Dingman brought a couple of bottles of Boone's Farm to the after-party at The Pointe, and everybody felt totally grown up drinking it out of their prom wine glasses. When she got home, Missy put the glass on the trinket shelf in her bedroom and promptly forgot all about it. Seven years later, her mother-who really wanted to put an exercise bike in there-boxed up all of the trinkets and took them to the Goodwill. Missy had no opinion on the matter.


Found at a yard sale in August 2018. (free)

Mrs. LuAnne Terranova bought this latch-hook rug kit at Woolworth's in the Valley Mall in 1988. She needed something to keep her hands busy while she tried to quit smoking, which was her dumbass husband Frank's stupid idea because he thought they should get healthy together now that the kids were out of the house, but really (she suspected) he had a thing for the little blonde Jazzercise instructor at the YMCA. After four and a half months of trying to figure out how the hell to use a latch-hook tool, LuAnn gave the kit to her son Max's girlfriend Elizabeth and started sneaking behind the garage to smoke. As it turned out, Elizabeth was very good at crafting and finished the rug in two weeks. She took it with her back to college, and then it followed her through two apartments, her first house and her eventual divorce (from Stan Simmons DDS, not from Max Terranova. She and Max had broken up junior year of college. But although she'll never admit to it, Elizabeth occasionally stalks Max's Instagram page when she's had too much wine). The rug resided in Elizabeth's garage in a box marked "House Stuff," and that box ended up as a box of free stuff at one of the neighborhood's many yard sales.


Found at Salvation Army in February 2018 ($1.00)

This piece was handcrafted in 1974 by Mr. Donnie Matheson as a gift for his daughter Claire on her 7th birthday. Donnie learned all about ceramics in high school when-due to a clerical error in the front office- he was placed in Art 201 instead of Auto 201, which he'd originally chosen as his elective. For months Claire had begged Donnie and his wife Marie (and before you ask, yes...they were aware of the irony and quite honestly sick of the jokes, thank you very much) for a carousel horse. Every conversation involved that carousel horse. It's all she ever talked about; carousel horse this and carousel horse that. The Mathesons scoured flea markets with the hope that maybe a traveling circus had left one behind , but they were simply coming up empty (such was the tragedy of life before the Internet). Not that they could have afforded an entire full sized carousel horse in the first place, but at least they tried. Finally Donnie had the remarkable idea to make one; after all, it would be unique and one-of-a-kind, just like Claire. The finished product turned out better than he could have expected, and he couldn't wait to see her face when she opened it. When the time finally came, Claire stared down at the little figure in her hands. She looked confused. What is it? she asked. It's a carousel horse! Your daddy made it all by himself! said Marie. Don't you like it? It's what you wanted! Claire looked at both of her parents and said No, I wanted a Carol Sell purse. You know? Carol Sell from down the street? She makes macramé purses. After that, Marie convinced Donnie that they both get their hearing checked. The little figure stayed on Claire's night table until the family moved to Oregon in 1985 when it accidently fell into a box of donations that Marie later dropped off at the Salvation Army. Honestly, none of the Mathesons noticed it was gone.


Found at American Rescue Workers in April 2017 ($0.25)

As you may recall, the Cerberus figurine came in a McDonalds Happy Meal in the summer of 1997 to promote Disney's Hercules. This particular toy came from the Happy Meal of eight year-old Brendon Thompson's cousin Terrence, who acquired it during a pit stop along the Pennsylvania Turnpike in August 1997. Brendon, his twin sister Carrie and the bratty little jerk Terrence were taking a road trip with their Gammy and Paw Paw, and they would be driving all the way to Gammy and Paw Paw's condo in Tampa Florida. It was the first time any of them had been away from their parents overnight, and Brendon and Carrie had been really excited about it...that is, until they realized that Paw Paw drove like a tipsy turtle and Terrence whined about eeeeeeverything. They'd been on the road for two hours and already had to pull over twice so that Terrence could pee. Then he wailed like a dumb baby each time they passed a McDonalds until finally Gammy convinced Paw Paw to get them all a Happy Meal. Carrie got Megara and Pegasus, and Brandon got Hercules and the Hydra. But Terrence got Hades and Cerberus and immediately screeched at the top of his lungs that he was afraid of it and he wanted Hercules and it wasn't fair. He screamed and cried so loudly that Gammy finally told Brendon he HAD to switch toys with Terrence. As soon as that Hercules toy was in his hands, Terrence's tears disappeared like magic. That pretty much ruined the rest of the trip. Brendon tossed the Cerberus in his knapsack, and when the vacation was over he threw that knapsack in his closet and promptly forgot about it until 2016 when he returned to his childhood home to help his mother pack up the house for her move to Tampa Florida. Cerberus ended up in a donation box, which Brendon promised to drop at the American Rescue Workers donation site before returning home to Michigan, but he completely forgot about it so Carrie took care of it for him.


Found at a yard sale in June 2019. (Free)

Mandy Simon's mother-in-law really didn't care for her, and Mandy just didn't get it. She'd always been polite to Mrs. Simon. She brought her flowers on Mother's Day and complemented her appearance all the time. Hell, Mandy even asked Mrs. Simon for cooking and housekeeping tips despite the fact that Mrs. Simon could neither cook nor keep a house clean without professional help. She even made Lyman call Mrs. Simon every single Sunday afternoon to check in. And yet Mandy and Lyman had been married for a full year and Mrs. Lyman still referred to Mandy as "My Lyman's lady friend." She was weird with gifts, too. Last Christmas Mandy gave Mrs. Lyman a beautiful red cashmere sweater, and all Mrs. Lyman said was I don't care for red. Then she handed Mandy a red silk scarf and said I didn't have time to wrap it. When Mandy's birthday came, Mrs. Lyman insisted on taking Lyman and Mandy to Red Lobster even though both Mandy and Lyman had told her numerous times that Mandy was allergic to shellfish. As Mandy picked at her chicken something-or-other, Mrs. Lyman handed her this roll of peel-and-stick wallpaper. I figured you would need this when you redo your bathroom, said Mrs. Lyman. Mandy had no intention of redoing the bathroom. It was lovely just the way it was. This was the last straw for Mandy. She stood, threw her napkin on her plate and said, Lady, you named your son Lyman Simon. You have terrible judgement. When she got home, Mandy threw the wallpaper in a box of random things that she planned on putting out at the community yard sale that weekend. Mrs. Lyman never mentioned the incident again, but she also didn't give Mandy a Christmas gift that year either.



Adelaide is a limited collection porcelain doll, and she would like to make it very clear that she is NOT A TOY. She was made by the Heritage Mint company by a line worker named Bud Pickman, and she doesn't know why she has conscious memories and self awareness. She supposes it has something to do with Bud Pickman's daugher Lulu and her friends playing with a Ouija board at a sleepover, but she can't be sure. In any case, Adelaide's hobbies include walking through fields of flowers, eating children's souls and possessing women over 70. She is still dealing with the heartbreaking rejection of not being cast in the latest Annabell sequel, and she's really not in the mood to deal with your shit, okay? Thanks for understanding.


About the Creator

Jessica Conaway

Full-time writer, mother, wife, and doughnut enthusiast.

Twitter: @MrsJessieCee

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    Jessica ConawayWritten by Jessica Conaway

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