“Omigod, Mom, please, please, please do not get in that Dumpster! Not with me in the car!”
I’d wager I said these words to my mom at least dozens of times, if not hundreds. 100% of the time after I’d uttered them, my mom would stop whatever $200 car she was driving at the moment, peer into the applicable Dumpster and—if the goods there were good enough—climb on in. I’d quietly swear I was never going anywhere with her in the car, ever again, a vow I’d forget the next time I neededarightomgrightnowpleasemom. (This was more often than not the same day.)
At the time, I thought my mom did the Dumpster divin’ thing because she thought it was fun. “Oh, I can get free stuff and mortify my teenage daughter at the same time! Score!” It would be years before I really understood she was part of the “gleaning movement” of necessity. Sure, she got revved up by a good find, but mostly? The computers, televisions, stereos, often brand new clothing and furniture someone else threw out was $50 in her pocket for food, rent and dollar-theater movies.
I loved some of my mom’s Dumpster finds. I didn’t object to benefitting from them as long as I didn’t have to be there when Mom rummaged ‘em up!
Then this thing called “law school” happened. With about zero dollars to spend on furniture, I’d meander past a sofa or a dresser or a coffee table on my way home from classes and go, “I can totally get this back to my apartment!” (Years of experience hauling stuff out for my mom’s garage sale really helped with this.) Apart from my mattresses, every single piece of furniture in my apartment during my first year at UCLAw was someone else’s castaway. This wasn’t anything to be ashamed of. It was just part of a college neighborhood’s no-cost, easy recycling system.
Over the course of a half-dozen years, I went from mortification to satisfaction at scavenging good finds. Stuff for free! Yes! Good stuff for free! Yesyesyes!
More recently, while I was pregnant, I’d take my dog on walks and come across furniture folks had set out on their lawns. A few times, I saw some Really Groovy Stuff. The Mom—yes, that’s capital-m Mom—saw it and exulted, so that I’d go home and tell Ba.D., “I found this love seat we’ve gotta get!”
If I were to sum up his wordless response to this in a couple of words, it’d be a loving:
If I had a few more words to add, they’d be:
We are not exposing my future baby to some germ- and hobo-pee-saturated rubbish ‘cause you can’t pass up something free!
The love seat did not come home that day. Exactly none of the delectable freebies I found while I was pregnant came home with me.
But yesterday, after scoring a parking spot not at all far from my apartment—on my first sweep!—I found a gorgeous little rocking horse next to my car. The Mom in me went, “Oh, there is noway I am passing this up!” I swept that sucker up by a handle and felt the delight of a total score.
After I wiped it down, I let my son at it. At first, my little daredevil just wanted to surf on it. After a few gentle efforts to coax him into a sit, he got the hang of it and rocked for several minutes. His smile the whole time lit up my heart.
When Ba.D. walked in, he saw the horse and exclaimed, “Cool find, Deb!” Just like that, it was like my mom was there with me, laughing and going, “You get it now, huh?”
I really do. A score is a score is a score. Every single one I get from here on out is a link back to those now giggle-inspiring memories of my teenaged mortification . . . and to my mom’s glee every time she found something awesome to take home.
In a simple abandoned rocking horse, I found something I’ve spent the year since my mom’s death struggling toward: the blessed memory of how irrepressible my mom’s joy was when she found something—an item, a moment, a memory—worth keeping.
This was among posts accidentally deleted from this blog.