Bernie’s parents are pathologic bargain shoppers. They’ll happily part with a sizable stack of cash on nearly anything if it’s 50% off with an extra coupon and hold the tax and this-day-only and free delivery. The only difference between their avid collecting and intervention-worthy hoarding is that their purchases have a “story,” are worth quite a bit of money, and are often quite beautiful. But because my in-laws have a smallish NY apartment and cannot resist new things that have the whiff of bargain about them, my house is a bit of a satellite museum for Lee family treasures.
Shopping for things we don’t need goes against my natural tendency to throw stuff away. The running joke among my in-laws is that when something goes missing, mostly likely I tossed it when they weren’t looking. This is entirely unfair and only true about 62% of the time. I just love to clean up, simplify, put away, recycle, and generally unload so much of the physical stuff that comes into our home. Especially the dried squid snacks. Also, I do think that “things” can clutter your mind and soul.
It won’t be shocking that A-Ma believes exactly the opposite. She has things for good luck, things for Chinese New Year, things to symbolize our zodiac animal signs, things for cough, things for cooking, and many many bags of things from Flushing that you can’t get here. After 10 years of less than gracious acceptance of Chinese tschotskes, I have grown more tolerant of these things, because I love A-Ma and A-Gong, and it makes them so happy to shop. Earlier this week, my in-laws happened upon a Chinese antique store going out of business. I fielded their excited call from Sam Ho’s secret storage area and knew that this would be our most expensive trip to the Natick Collection. And those men working Nordstom’s shoe department know me by name.
Bernie and I reluctantly met A-Ma and A-Gong at a really tacky store that displayed Tibetan chests alongside Hello Kitty tweezers and a sad assortment of ceramic kitties waving hello. But for some reason this antiquing adventure was fun. Bernie and I just sat back (on some really adorable garden stools) and trusted these lovely, smart people to do what they do so well. And after an hour of bargaining (in Mandarin), and parting with our own sizable stack of cash, we now have a truck full of armoires, sideboards, tables, and a really really really old pot. I didn’t fret over the right location for a completely unnecessary, 400 pound iron vessel, or the cost, or the fact my receipt was on a torn sheet of paper in Chinese characters. I just enjoyed their enjoyment of this acquisition of things, trusting their perception of “the deal,” and feeling uniquely lucky to have these people in my life.
Anyone reading these silly musings of mine know how badly I need to something to giggle about right now. Bernie’s parents, with grace and love and complete acceptance of me and my odd habits, provide giggles and so much more. Indulging them in a bit of antiquing was a way for me to thank them for all they do. Of course, my own father was a bit perplexed as to why we went to Natick to buy old furniture “for” my in-laws that we don’t necessarily want or need. He suspects it’s endowed with “energy” that comes along at no extra cost.