Thrifty Thursday

My great grandparents are from Hungry, so when I say I have Gypsy blood I’m totally serious.  My great grandfather made a living selling ice from a horse-drawn buggy in Pennsylvania, and I bet he could sell ice on the coldest of days.  The thrill of the deal has been with me ever since I scored a case of beer in The Bahamas on a remote island we were anchored off of when I was five.  My parent’s enthusiasm for me explaining how thirsty my cruising parents were was infectious.  Years later, dressed as Wonder Woman I sold coloring book pages for two dollars a piece from my busy Longmeadow, Massachusetts sidewalk knowing each page was more than the sale-priced book.  I went to grade school with a boy named Zamont who sold snails in milk cartons around the playground.  I can remember thinking he was a genius as I clutched a My Little Pony.

I used my Gypsy skills throughout many parking lot scenes of the Grateful Dead’s east coast shows, selling hand silk-screened second-hand shirts and hand-sewn hippie dresses to get where I wanted: under Jerry’s spell.  Give me five minutes in a dumpster, and I’ll come out holding the vintage Smurf keychain coveted on Ebay.  Drop me off in a car lot, and I’ll not only embarrass the hell out of my husband with six hours on a lot, but we’ll be waving to the dealer as we pull away in a car, seven thousand dollars cheaper than the advertised price.  I love a good deal, and I could go on and on with stories of savings, but it’s my attention to bringing new life into something tossed away, forgotten or set aside that has me sing-songingly perusing thrift house shelves for smiles and oh-my-really?-this-is-awesome!
I fell in love a red couch while on bed rest in my first pregnancy.  It was an Indian Summer and I had three months to go.  The storekeepers let me take air conditioned naps on it for certainty of purchase.  Of course, my Gypsy dialogue had a storage ottoman thrown in for free when I bought it.  Red velvet ultra-suede welcomed each new baby girl born into our family, just as it had through each bed-rested pregnancy.  I nursed each babe for hours on squishy cushions, and both dogs I’ve had the pleasure of owning in the past half-a-decade have gone to great tail wags to steal a cushion cuddle.  Our red couch knew us as newlyweds and newly pregnant, the couch took in the hardest of news in the longest of nights.  The couch stood tall against a wall the color of Ebey’s Prairie in August, a wall plastered in Victorian style.  It’s weird when pieces have been with us for so long.  If the couch could talk, it would have a lot to say as it poured endless glasses of Zinfendel in hand-blown glasses.  I just sold it to a best mama pal, and so the red couch continues its journey from one island to another, from our home by the sea to their home in the valley.  I am a little sad to see it go.
This collection of islands I call home has an inspiring buy-sell-trade community.  There’s a nature here where you could trade bread for art lessons, carpentry for car repair and someone not too long ago offered me two sturdy alpacas and a freezer full of crab, of salmon for a VW Jetta we were selling.  These islands value a craft, a trade in art’s eye and know that traveling off-island, using gas and time to buy new on the mainland isn’t the most conscious of behaviors.  I certainly live in an area where taking your canvas grocery bags to the market is taken to the extreme and it’s a good thing, indeed.  There’s a local Facebook group and it’d be easy to watch the posts all day long for what you could be missing: an arc welder, a vintage pair of cowboy boots, a marine engine. 
[I realize this post is growing a bit wordy, a bit long].  Around noon I saw this couch for $150.  Retro, sectional, brown velour, and mint condition.  I was second in line in the post, and (ironically) all my island pals with similar style and interests wanted the couch, too.  Soon, there were 18 people in line with if they’re not interesteded, I am messages.  I said I’d take it when my friend passed, due to its size.  Luke was a little shocked to hear we’d bought a couch and sold our couch (on the very same site) as he walked through the door moments later. 
This couch has chapter book and family movie and board game and so many other our-kids-are-growing-up activities written all over it.  It has style and a story.
Every piece of furniture has a story. 
[I realize this post is growing a bit wordy, a bit long].
Two years ago I wrote a play for the theatre, a 52-page narrative poem/play about the last island family to inhabit the lighthouse.  The play was called Light at Limekiln.  I came to know and love an elderly woman who lives around the corner in my small town named Agnes, the youngest daughter to live in the lighthouse.  We spent afternoons in interview, looked at her diaries and journals and photographs.  It was my first play, a half of a year spent in research and rewrites to deliver a piece I am so proud of as a writer, a playwright, a poet. 
This couch belonged to Agnes’ sister.


Full circle, this couch with yellow, wooden swindle-feet.


The couch is already telling me to write another play.  For now, I watch my ladies love the new piece of furniture that matches our 1920s home, my grandmother’s piano the color or my first love, chocolate.
I’m linking up with Lady Cordelia, a mama bloggy pal who has such an eye, such a gift for thrifting on Thrifty Thursday.
[Olive playing with her tiny grey Barbie laptop because it’s just like Mama’s Apple].


  • Katie says:

    I can picture you almost clearly selling colored pages from your torn paper books. Love that!

    The couch rocks! Love that it has many wonderful stories already held between its threads, and will continue to hold many more in the years to come.

  • Swanski says:

    Lovely story! I am filled with emotion knowing that you not only got a great second hand couch but it's a couch with meaning!!!! (oh, and your post was not too wordy)

  • I'd love to have a book of your words on my nightstand.

  • I loves reading this…to know that your grandfather sold ice like that is pretty amazing.Beautiful little girls you have on your couches!

  • Amy says:

    what a wonderful post – and an amazing couch. i am interested in lighthouse families, i bet your play is great.

  • awesome post! I do the exact same thing here with craigslist (do you have that?) and also a Facebook group. Two actually, one for “trade” and one for giving stuff away (or looking for something to be given.) I find most people are FLAKES on those FB groups unfortunately. Looks like you have better luck.
    My husband also always is not in the loop all the time with new purchases. ooops.

  • Erin says:

    What a cool post! Love it!

  • whimsygal says:

    such a beautiful read. thank you for sharing! so glad I found you via soulemama….i too had a grandfather (great) that travelled into town with an ice filled horse wagon (though he was selling butter), we too live on a wee island where we love to trade (my hubby is a baker and we often trade for fish, repairs, carpentry etc) and I love trading my paintings with other artists, homeopaths, pilates instructors and the list goes on!!!

    You will get a peek at my world at: ….thanks to that post, I just traded the seastar painting (albeit print form) for some photos from an incredible underwater photographer !!!

    here's to the gypsy in all of us!

  • Oh what a fantastic find! I love how you describe the thrifting community where you are…sounds so wonderful!

    Long ago I used to work at a small college and people would send out all campus e-mails to sell things…it was always so fun to be the one to capture that “great find” knowing that someone else would want it to, but by luck of timing you would see the e-mail first. We once got an compact sized washer and dryer for $20.

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