Rainy-day activity: Popping tags n’ thrifting

My grandpa was known to spread out the classified section of his Saturday-morning newspaper and carefully circle each interesting-sounding garage sale. I imagine he’d put on a bolo and his hat before sliding into the driver’s seat of his grey sedan and touring Calgary looking for good bargains and great books.

I don’t know whether my love of thrifting comes from my Pritchard bloodline. I don’t think that’s a thing you can pinpoint in a DNA test. Yet the highlight of any trip to a new town is checking out roadside sales along the way and, better yet, thrift shops.

We generally break them down into three categories:

  • The big, sometimes branded thrift shops that have daily tag deals.
  • Small-town second-hand places that are usually run for love or because someone’s spouse said, “You keep buying all this shit, you better open the barn doors and start selling some.
  • “Jesus thrifts,” tiny church- or community-run shops that are open only an afternoon a week or whenever a volunteer is available. Those are the best — prices are crazy low, and generally the lady behind the cash (it’s almost always a lady behind the cash) will banter a bit and remark on how sweet your strange children are.

Thifting is always more fun with kids like ours, who throw themselves into the experience. Trevor, who is nearly 23, will wander quietly into the aisles and return with some sort of hat. He’ll wait for a reaction — usually generous eye-rolling — and vanish. He’ll return with a woman’s coat — fur if he can find it — and then again and again as he finds accessories.

He tries for a theme when he can, and makes terrible puns like, “Look, mom, I’ve got velociraptor claws and a tricera-tops hat.” A Sally Ann in Erie, Pa., has surprise boxes for a few dollars that have lead to hilarious discoveries and more than one unconventional unboxing video.

And Jilly, who is nearly 7, wants nothing more than to be like her big brother, and to play a little dress-up while she’s at it.

Our thrift-shop training came in handy last Christmas, when we discovered at the last minute that a community dinner we were about to attend also had a costume contest. We dashed into the nearest second-hand place and came out with Christmas-themed insanity.

Trevor and I won the contest.

Every town has a thrift of one size or another. On a rainy vacation day, save the $100 it’ll cost to take everyone to an indoor adventure packed with everyone else’s kids and spend an hour supporting a local business, re- and up-cycling and laughing so hard your sides ache.

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