Searching for Answers at the Thrift Store



I’m looking for answers.  I want clear, specific answers.

My eyes scan the book titles  and I wait for a title to reach out with promises.  Rather than start in the more obvious Self-Help section, I head to a smaller section with a taped label, “Theatre” (on second thought, it’s probably spelled with the American “er”). The section makes for short perusal because this is my neighborhood thrift store. There are thirty-two copies of Julius Caesar, twenty-seven versions of Romeo and Juliet, six slim paperbacks of Our Town, and a bland-looking book entitled Creative Drama that tries to lull me into a sympathy purchase every time I visit.

I call out to the books as I take my time amongst the dusty tomes.

“I need to make some decisions about my life. Who can tell me what activities my children should be involved with next fall?”

Silence pervades, but it’s not unfriendly silence.

I pause in the “Old Book” section.

“How can I get my kids to stop fighting?”

I’m pretty sure the muted black and tan book with the jazzy 1960s title: The Man’s Guide to Manly Cooking, just shifted its spine a couple of centimeters in my direction, but I call its bluff and move on.

I walk to the Spiritual section and ask with a little more urgency, “How do I lose a few pounds?”

Even the food-related title, Chocolate for a Christian Woman’s Soul, doesn’t pretend to hold the wisdom I’m longing for tonight, although it does make me think about cookie dough and my stomach rumbles its own response.

I stalk to the Education section, then Cooking and Children’s and eventually land where I should have headed all along: Fiction Softcover.

The reason I didn’t start here is because this isn’t the section I go to for answers.  This is the place I go to forget the questions altogether.  This final destination is a clear sign that I’m surrendering my hope for answers in exchange for the novels in my hand that offer the promise of escape.

It’s more than the other sections have offered thus far.

As I make my way out of the maze of shelves, my arms full, I conjure one final surge of hope and stop in the Parenting section.  Remarkably I find a hardback of the exact book I’d been looking at on Amazon earlier this afternoon. I add it to my stack. The bottom of my stack.

For six dollars and thirty-seven cents, I leave with all I need.

Later, I open up the first novel and my questions pipe down quickly, almost as if they’ve disappeared.

But really, the trick is on me. Inevitably, a dive into the world of fiction, brings me back to the surface of reality with a new perspective on my life and the questions of my heart which, most likely, are different questions than the ones I thought so pressing in the thrift store earlier tonight.




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