I’ve been in a real John Prine phase lately, and one of my favorite discoveries is “Souvenirs.” One reason why I love the thrift store is because I am constantly fascinated by the history of the objects that end up there. Objects can never be experiences, of course, but it stirs something in me to think about the memories we make while accumulating things, whether they serve specific functions or simply amuse us. That’s why a space like a secondhand shop feels so sacred if not a little melancholy — there are so many stories behind those dust-covered trinkets and faded dishes.
Along with waxing poetic about my thrift store trips, I’ve also been relishing in the sentimentality of hand-me-down gifts. Since I was tall as a kid, I used to wear a lot of my mom’s old clothes and felt somewhat embarrassed by them. But now that I’m an adult, it feels special whenever my mother hands something down to me. Over the past three or so years, it’s been a tacit tradition for my mom to give me her old jewelry. We also share little presents with each other throughout the year outside of special occasions, but come birthdays and holidays, my mom will gift me her old fine jewelry.
As a purveyor of funky costume jewelry operating on a shoestring budget, I can’t really imagine myself ever splurging on fine jewelry, so it’s always a treat whenever I unbox a new treasure from my mother. Here are just a few of my favorite secondhand gifts from my mom.
Secondhand heart pendant necklace
A few Christmases ago, Mom gifted me this diamond heart-shaped necklace that my dad bought her from Costco on Valentine’s Day. I don’t wear a lot of necklaces besides my jade pendant ones, but I love matching this with breezy spring dresses when the weather calls for more exposed necklines. Otherwise, I keep it inside of its box since I don’t want to damage it. It warms me to think about my dad buying this while on one of his after-work Costco strolls, a tradition that he maintains to this day.
Secondhand cubic zirconia and silver jewelry set
This Christmas, she also gifted me this cubic zirconia set. The shiny pendant and earrings feature overlapping circles, which feel very specific to the early aughts somehow. It boggles my mind that she bought this from JCPenney over 20 years ago, when I was still in elementary school and George W. Bush was still president! What a haunting thought.
The sweater that I’ve placed it on is also another secondhand treasure. Four summers ago, my grandma and aunt came over from Toronto for a visit. When my mom took my grandma to the $1 stands at the flea market in San Jose, she bought this vintage Gap cable sweater. It didn’t fit her, so she passed it off to me. I’m sure she didn’t think about it very much, but it always reminds me of the sweltering summer we spent eating banh xeo and watching David Attenborough documentaries together.
Secondhand Victorian lamp
And last but not least is a cute thrifted lamp my mom gifted me! The two pieces are actually from separate thrifting adventures. She previously bought the lamp base in Modesto a few years ago and spruced up the body with some gold acrylic paint. It was missing a shade, so my dad bought the gorgeous milk glass top for it at a thrift store in Livermore later. And since my mom has way, way too many lamps, she gave it to me when I told her that I wanted to look for Victorian-inspired lamps! All of the textures and patterns work for me, from the dainty milk glass bumps to the charming floral design on the body.
Gifting used items is often drawn out to be a faux pas, but I wish it wasn’t so! It can be such a wonderful way to declutter formerly treasured items while offering years worth of sentimental value. Isn’t it so pretty to think about the memories a hand-me-down gift holds and the memories you’ve yet to make with it? Thank you for reading through this self-indulgent post. I’ve been going through a creative funk lately and just wanted to put something out.