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The Spark (she said)

With my cousins and twin sister in my aunt's pantry, Annapolis, MD in the mid-80s.

With my cousins and twin sister in my aunt's pantry, Annapolis, MD in the mid-80s.

I think this type of life attracts someone who is a restless traveler that likes to hunt and gather, is part voyeur, and is mildly or fully obsessed with the idea of the next big find.  I know that the love of the flea, the auction house, the estate sale, and the antique show came from my father.

My first experience with treasure-hunting and flea markets was with him. We arrived at an estate auction in the middle of nowhere and he immediately made a beeline for the barn to get his bid number. I remember my 7 year old self clinging to his side in those first few moments as he registered and walked around viewing the wares. His thing was antique tools for which I also have a great appreciation. Once my sister and I got comfortable, we tried to catch frogs in the pond next to the barn as the auctioneer’s melodic and indiscernible numbers floated above our ears.

We then loaded his two-toned red and white VW bus with his winnings and headed to the flea market on the Avenue of the Americas in NYC. We arrived in the middle of the night, as the newspapers rolled freely across the deserted street, and found a parking spot next to the flea market.  Then I found out that the mattress that sat on top of all of his goods was for us when he boosted me and my sister up on top of it before he climbed up with us. We had just inches between us and the ceiling of the van and I thought this was the coolest thing in the world. We awoke just a couple of hours later and walked across the street for a morning doughnut before we went back to the van to unload.

The empty parking lot transformed into people milling about trying to wheel and deal between dealer booths. My sister and I wandered around by ourselves, but were watched over by all the purveyors as “Chuck’s twins”. I stopped at a basket filled with stuffed animals and pulled out a teddy bear that wound up and played music. This, with a little help from my Dad, would be my first deal. I had a crumpled dollar in my pocket that he had given each of us, and I was sad to find out that the bear—due to its incredible musical talent—cost $1.50.  Without disclosing what I had, I slunk away from the table and went back to ask my father for the fifty cents.  He turned me around, walked to the other vendor and said, “how about a dollar for the bear?” That’s all it took. My music box bear was a dollar…and a deal! That was it. The seed was planted.


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