Monday, December 21, 2009

Second Hand

In the last post, I referred to a growing collection of local treasures that have found their way into this house. My favorite may be this original drug-store counter from the Paul Davis Pharmacy up the street. The eponymous shop was open for decades, one of the few active commercial establishments on an otherwise (at least recently) shuttered retail strip.

Paul Davis himself dispensed prescriptions until his retirement a couple of years ago. When a friend of ours bought the space for his law practice, we ended up the proud and lucky owners of this solid parcel of history, where countless transactions were performed, and countless remedies were tendered. How much suffering was relieved as hands met across this very piece of oak?

The counter and all its ghosts now serve as a work surface in John's basement office. We relish the scratches in the wood, because they remind us to treat this baby as the workhorse it was intended to be.

And all this gets me wondering, on this most commercial of holidays, why the default for most people is buying something new. There are so many wonderful existing items out there, ripe for the taking-in, rather than the landfill. And this reminds me of my favorite of our family holiday traditions, Second Hand Santa, invented by my mother-in-law, who felt it good and proper to exchange things that were already part of the object stream of people's lives.

We've passed along Second-Hand-Santa to other friends, and we've ended up giving and receiving some of our favorite presents ever in the process: Vintage juicers, balls of yarn, shiny barware, wool sweaters, fondue sets, college sweatshirts, bathrobes, cookbooks, an imported wine rack, a footstool intended to be stuffed with old newspaper, and most recently, a stunning set of wooden spoons from Vietnam.

If it were up to me, we'd only exchange second-hand gifts at the holidays, but not everyone shares my patience for thrift stores, garage sales, or the backs of cobwebbed closets.

Nevertheless, I can go on record saying my favorite things in my life, including my sweet pooch Inez, were owned by other people before me.

I'm grateful to those people for keeping these items safe and sound, fit to pass along to someone who'd give them a second round of affection.


dsudyka said...

I couldn't agree with you more in regards to the level of commercialization of this holiday, and wish it was Second Hand Santa all the way baby. The pharmacy counter just looks happy to be in a home with such caring neighborhood historians. It's the only thing that is stopping me from stealing it from you.

leslie said...

I am ready to make a campaign contribution to Second-Hand Santa. 2010 SHS! Yes we can!

Rosemary said...

I saw a great suggestion in the January issue of _Better Homes and Gardens_, of all places, about organizing a swap meet party, where guests bring up to ten items to trade. You get to take home as many items as you brought, if you like, and whatever's leftover gets donated. It's the first suggestion I've seen in that magazine that I've had an imediate urge to follow through on!

Christy said...

You guys have put me in the Christmas spirit more than I thought possible this year. Time to institute some new traditions for the new decade!

tracy said...


Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.