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Thrift Stores

The Search for an Ugly Christmas Sweater

I’m bringing this one back from the archives in honor of the holidays.  Enjoy!

So, the hubby’s punk rock band, So What decides they are wearing ugly Christmas sweaters for their holiday show.  No problem, I think, as I begin formulating a list of thrift stores in my head that we will need to visit to find it.

It’s a rainy Thanksgiving week-end in the Bay Area, but we trudge out into the cold and sleet to begin our journey.  We are filled with anticipation.  Will the sweater have images of animals celebrating Christmas together around a manger or perhaps colorful, embroidered Christmas ornaments adorning it?  Will it have a button that says, “Press Here,” and Jingle Bells will play?  We are giddy with the possibilities.

Stop One.  Our trusted Thrift Town in San Leandro.  Surely, this is a no-brainer, and we will saunter into the store, barely reaching the housewares section and there it will be on a rack reserved for special Christmas merchandise, surrounded by a brilliant white light, just waiting for us.  See, there is the rack displaying all sorts of seasonal attire.  There are the swaths of red and green.  We are ever hopeful, as we slide the hangers back, looking carefully at each colorful sweater.  But, alas, there is no sweater that will fit and after a quick spin around the store (just in case there is something else we might need to buy), we quit.

We make our way down East 14th Street towards Hayward.  With its 4 large thrift stores, I am feeling confident that we will find The Ugly Christmas Sweater soon.

Stop Two.  Salvation Army, Hayward.  It’s raining cats and dogs by now and we keep our heads down low and run as fast as we can from the car to the store.  Inside, there are tables set up with Christmas merchandise, just steps from the front door.  Promising, I think to myself.  Then, I notice it:  the sign informing shoppers that EVERYTHING in the store is 50% off.  Eureka!  We begin a mad hunt for that dang-nabbed sweater, knowing full well that if it were going to be a good thrifting day, THIS is the store that it would be found in.  It turns out not to be a good thrifting day.

Back in the warmth of our car, we dejectedly head south down Mission Boulveard.   It’s beginning to get hard to see out the windows it’s raining so hard, but the hubby calls out that we just passed a small, unknown thrift store.  I begin to feel a little grumpy, as I make a U-turn which takes us seemingly miles back in the direction we just came from.   But then, we focus in on our target with renewed vigor.  From the looks of the outside of the store, I am not hopeful (the store shall remain nameless to protect the innocent).  But, being the perseverent thrifters that we are, we go inside, just in case.  Nope, looks are not deceiving , and we high tail it outta there.

Stop Three.  Ecothrift, Hayward.  Geez, we discover that this is where everyone and their brother is thrifting today and we barely find a parking spot.  The neatly organized store is jammed full of holiday shoppers.  My mood has picked up because surely with so many aisles overflowing with men’s,  women’s and children’s clothing, we must be close to scoring that sweater soon.  It is here at Ecothrift that we decide to blur the gender lines and begin to consider women’s Christmas sweaters for the guys in the band (They probably won’t notice), but they are all too small and not sweatery enough.

Stop Four.  Thrift Center, Hayward.  My dogs are beginning to move more slowly and the blood sugar is definitely dropping.  But, the lure of possibility remains and so we soldier on, down the brightly-lit aisles in search of the ugliest Christmas sweater we can possibly find.  I check out the women’s section and the hubby scans the men’s section.  Nothing.  Absolutely Nothing.

Stop Five.  St. Vincent de Paul, Fremont.  I am not feeling it.  I seem to remember that this thrift store specializes in large furniture pieces and only has a small clothing section.  Suspicion confirmed.  The hubby does a scan of the tiny little men’s and women’s section, and I can barely make it past the vintage couches, the cool faux brick fireplace from the 1960’s, and an armchair that could have been considered Shabby Chic, given a slight upholstery adjustment.  Hubbby reports back that “there are no Christmas sweaters here.”  I am starting to think that we will have to break down and go to….horrors of all horrors…Walmart.  Meanwhile, hubby gets distracted in the large book section clear on the other side of the massive warehouse, and I decide to try my hand at the clothing section myself.  As I’m about to give up completely, I move a hanger on one of the racks, hearing the metal hanger scrape against the steel rack, and I let out a squeal.   It’s not a sweater, mind you, but more of a sweat-shirt, however, and most importantly – it is sized XL – and someone has adorned it with horridly amateurish images of green Christmas trees and white polka dots against its red backdrop.  It’s perfectly beautiful in its ugly festiveness.  This will definitely fit one of the guys.  One down, only three to go.

Stop Six.  Lunch.

Stop Seven.  American Cancer Society Discovery Shop, Fremont.  I am pretty sure that this used to be a Salvation Army, but never you mind, I am not picky.  Do I need anymore Christmas decorations?  Heck no.  Do I buy more?  Of course I do.  They are all only a few dollars a piece, and I’m out another 3o bucks.  But, what’s more, this is Christmas Sweater Heaven!  We find two more ugly sweaters, and I have that overly-thrifting experience where I see the same set of goldish-brown 1960’s flour and sugar cannisters with mushrooms on them that I have seen dozens of times before in other thrift stores.  I am relieved that we have accomplished our goal of outfitting hubby, and we have the added bonus of finding sweaters for some of the guys, too.  I love the Cancer Society.

Stop Eight.  Thrift Town, Fremont.  We are having what my old boss used to call a “bracketing experience.”  That means, that we are ending our day the same way it started – in this case at Thrift Town.  I enter its sliding glass doors and immediately get my thrift on.  I somehow had forgotten what a fabulous place this is and get nostalgic for the hours I used to while away on my lunch break inside its four fully-stocked walls.  I pay homage to its separate vintage section which has been mercilously picked over and get pulled over to the book section.  Lo and behold, there is a hidden Christmas decoration area way over the corner, like the Land of Misfit Toys, and there they are, all bundled together like a group of old friends.  I can almost picture them on Mabel’s lawn around the corner – a set of six perfectly fine vintage plastic candy canes with red bows.  And, guess how much they are (this is the best part):  $2.49.  It almost seems like a crime to pay this little for them, but I set aside my guilt and swoop in on them and immediately run over to the hubby to gloat.  He smiles and nods and is already standing in the interminably long check-out line, but like a good husband that he is, he sticks out the one remaining free finger he has and I hang one of the canes on it while I continue to shop.    I am definitely on a roll, having next spotted the last remaining Christmas sweaterish thing needed to outfit the group:  a cut off t-shirt with the words:  Dear Santa, I can Explain!

2010 Thanksgiving Thrifting and Xmas Sweaters 112

It’s a wonderful life.


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Comments

  1. Lori Hartline says:

    Fantastic job Maryann! I felt the ups and downs of the day in this piece. I believe I was shopping with you too! It was really exciting, I felt the “hunt. I’m so glad you found sweaters and included photos, each one is remarkable in it’s onwn way!

    1. Mimi says:

      Thanks, Lori. It truly was like we were on ‘the hunt.’ Glad you enjoyed the story!

  2. Danielle says:

    Great story! And I can totally relate, having searched for my own ugly Christmas sweater in the past….any chance you’ll be selling any of these after the show? I have a party on the 26th that any of these would be perfect for.

    1. Mimi says:

      Hi Danielle: Unfortunately, these ugly sweaters are all accounted for. But, I just saw a few the other day at Nifty Thrift In Lafayette. Hopefully, they’re still there – in the back room where the Xmas decorations are. Good luck!

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