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Putting The ‘Itch’ In

July 13, 2013

Not many guys, of the married variety, have the pleasure of saying they like their in-laws. In most cases a visit to the wife’s folks is met with high anxiety. Happily that is not the case in my case. My parent-in-laws are awesome. Not to discredit my spouse, but their pleasant attitudes did play a part in my decision to propose. In addition to the welcome felt each time upon entering their home we share a lot of interests. We’ll focus on the one that applies here which is that they are collectors. The difference is that unlike my own collecting (which is quite eclectic, sporadic and often erratic) theirs has a little more direction to it. Collecting rare antiquities from eras gone by, most notably ceramic cookie jars. To say they have a few would be an understatement. To say they have a few hundred would be more accurate. But no cookies. The lack of cookies is not an issue, but a cookie jar that was owned and broken in years gone by prior to collecting is.

The jar in question is (or was) a 1960’s Twin Winton Elephant. It lived on the kitchen counter beside the sink. Until it developed sinus problems. Sinus problems in the sense of its nose being broken off, by my then pre-pubescent future spouse. As it turns out ceramic elephant cookie jar noses are not the best choice for use as a dish drainer. Her mother was notably unsettled by the snout-less pachyderm. My wife still carries the memory of this disappointment on her shoulders to this day. Which sling-shots us forward in time to this past weekend inside a local thrift store.

Sometimes they’re full of junk. Useless crap that just needs to find a dumpster to live in. However, many a good deal can be found at a good thrift shop. And every now and again one comes across an item someone has parted with that is exactly what they’re looking for. In this case it was a ceramic elephant. Now the rest is gonna go fast so try to keep up.

I sighted the beast sitting on the top shelf. An older woman had been looking it over, coming to the same conclusion as myself—it was junk—the lid was missing. So she placed it back on the shelf and I then placed a ceramic sailor hat I had found on its head. Stepping back to get Red’s attention, then seeing her reaction to the item I stepped back over to procure said pachyderm. My hand was on it, carefully holding the hat in place, as I looked back at my wife’s shocked face. Then it moved and slide sideways. Oh s*** its going to fall (I thought) and I’ll be the proud owner of some ceramic dust. No it wasn’t falling,, it had been the old lady, WTF? Yanking right out of my paws, she tucked it into her arms like a running back and ran around the corner; again WTF?

It was at this point Lil Red recanted the story of her youth and a sick feeling passed over me at not having grabbed the thing in the first place. There was another feeling too, a sense of being watched. It was the lady, staring at us through the clothes racks. Need we say WTF? Something primitive kicked in, some foreboded instinct that lay dormant until someone steals your ceramic cookie jar elephant. OK, so technically it wasn’t ours and she didn’t steal it per se, but something weird was happening and Red picked up on it too.

We finished looking around, headed for the checkout and that should have been the end of it. Probably would have been, had the old bag not been watching us like a hawk the entire time. “She’ll put it back the moment we leave.” Red said. It sounded crazy, why would she do that? At the same time it rang true. So we lingered, looping through the store again. If we walked and stood near the checkout, she’d stop behind the nearest clothes racks and watch intently. Occasionally we’d pass by and peer into her cart under her scowl. Yes, I’ll admit that’s a little deranged but it was fun and that weird sense still remained. Finally Red had had enough, on her last “pass” she’d gotten a good look and the elephant was not “the elephant” but a reproduction. So under the crone’s watchful eye we left the store.

We got in the car but we weren’t going anywhere. My gaze was locked on the storefront. Seconds later the lady exited with no elephant shaped bags, I bolted from the car and raced back into the store. Sure enough there he sat, back in the original spot he’d been in almost an hour ago. Moments later I exited with an elephant shaped bag.

So in the end victory was sort of ours. It wasn’t “the elephant” but by then it was down to the principle of the thing.

However we were still left with the nagging question of why? Why was this woman so desperately determined for us not to have something she did not want? Staring us down and willing to stay in that store until we had departed elephantless? You could sum it up to several things, probably find a few psychological labels that apply to older folks rebuking younger ones to slap on it. But personally just between you and me...she was just being a b****.

I welcome all questions, comments, and column suggestions, via Focus, or e-mail me at my new email address–

Hope to hear from ya, until then try and stay focused. See ya.



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