Growing up in the seventies, we (being my mother & the 5 kids) spent our week-ends at the big old red barn. Farmers, we were not. Survivalist, maybe. Marketeers, definitely.
You see, the big old red barn had been converted to a flea market and this is where our life found livelihood. Selling what-ever we could get our dirty little hands on, we made ends meet.
Junk bought on Monday became an antique sold on Sunday. We bought discontinued clothes by the pound. We painted them & sold them as designer pieces. We cruised the neighborhood, picking up other peoples trash to take home and sand or paint and hopefully turn into some shoppers treasure.
We didn't become millionaires. But we survived.
There, at the flea market, as a little girl I learned a number of different things.
One of the things I learned right off the bat was "If You Break It, You Buy It."
Wheelers & dealers had signs posted that professed such. Some dealers would chant it if they saw unattended children. Some could communicate it just with their eyes. It was the number one rule at the market.
Well, one day this middle-eastern man came to the market. He looked funny trudging through the dirt in his silk suits and shiny shoes. All the dealers whispered as he walked by. Was he going to buy the flea market? Were our rates going to go up?
He came to our dirty little booth & then left. Other dealers swarmed around Momma... what did he say? What was he doing? Was he looking at anything? No....not really.
A few hours later, he returned with his partners. Straight to our booth, he came. He didn't pick up a thing. He didn't ask us anything. He & his comrades huddled, speaking in a foreign language.
Then, he offered Momma one hundred dollars for the old tattered rug thrown on the floor of our covered raw-earth booth. She said...it's dirty. he said 'one fifty.' She said...it's old and has holes in it. He said 'two hundred.' She said 'Cash?' He nodded and pulled a big, fat roll out of his pants pocket. She said 'Paige, help me roll this rug up.'
We left the market about an hour early that day. Before we went home, Momma stopped at the grocery store. In the car, she told us...Each of you may pick out one item and I don't care what it is, but pick out one item you want & today, I will buy it for you.'
We scattered throughout the store like salt sprinkled over a large pot of potatoes.
I think some of my siblings got chocolate & others got steak.
I stood in the first aisle, contemplating the seriousness of the situation.
I wanted something good.
I wanted something that would last a long time.
I wanted something I could savor for a good, long time to come.
I finally figured out what would be my best best & I headed to the condiment aisle.
I remember passing Curt & Kim...they were already waiting with their goodies.
On the bottom shelf sat my hearts desire... the largest jar of dill pickles ever. It was as big as the ones on the counter of the corner store.
I crouched down & picked it up.
I didn't even get to take my first step before BAM!
It crashed to the floor.
Immediately I flipped the jagged glass filled lid & started dropping shards of glass in it. The dirt on my toes turned to mud as the splattered pickle juice ran down my legs.
A boy with an apron showed up with paper towels and a dust pan.
I looked up & although, I didn't really cry...the tears came down my cheeks.
I apologized & told him I would clean it up.
He said he had it & he began to sweep than broom over my pickles.
My voice cracked 'I know, I know....you break it, you buy it. But if you could just give me some of your paper towels...I can save some of these pickes...they don't all have glass in them and I promise I'll clean this mess up. My mom will pay for this jar. She said she would buy any ONE item I wanted and well, this was it. I'll throw the glass away but I want to keep the pickles'
He crouched down beside me.
'Tell you what kid...I'll carry a fresh jar to the front for you. I'll clean this mess up & no-one will ever know. I'll tell my boss & he'll be OK with it. Don't worry, you won't have to pay for it, OK?'
'Are you sure?'
"Yes, 'You break it, you buy it' isn't always true, okay?"
I told my Momma about breaking the jar & the nice boy in the apron. I wondered if he would get in trouble. She laughed 'No honey, probably not.'
Our hearts, sometimes like that big old jar of pickles...
too heavy, sometimes, to carry just right
too valuable to just leave behind
broken, sometimes, but always with something to be salvaged
and just because someone broke it, doesn't mean they bought it...
2 months ago