There's no place better than a good thrift store
Thrift Store Clothing Racks
Credit: jennifer m. ramos/Getty Images

My mother shelters in place in February. She thinks that if she can hole up for 28 days, she will survive the bone-chilling harshness of an Alabama winter till the buttercups push their way out into the glory of spring. Leap year is, in her eyes, just mean.

I try to lure her outside with treats, kind of like we used to do with her beloved old dog, Gizzard. But unlike Gizzard, who would run through a wall at the mere possibility of a scrap of bologna, she's not easily bamboozled.

"How about we go get us some catfish?" I ask.

"Hon," she says, "they're saying on Channel 6 that it might snow."

Not unless God Himself floats over and sprays us with a can of starch, I think.

Only one thing will get her out of her comfortable chair, there beside the glowing fireplace.

"Wanna hit the thrift store?" I ask.

The next sound you'll hear will be the banging of the screened door, loud as a pistol shot. She'll be sitting in the passenger seat, buckled in, by the time I find the car keys.

My family loves going to the thrift store, and we frequent about 14 of them on a regular basis. I guess we're afraid we'll miss something. Life does not change much from day to day at the mall; what they have on a Tuesday, they'll have on Wednesday. But every day at a thrift store is a whole, big, new world of possibility. It all depends on whim, on chance—or, as Mama says, "what the rich people get tired of."

I started going to them because my mother, no matter how much her life has changed, will always be a child of the Depression, a survivor of the foothills of the Appalachians. Dollar General, to her, might as well be Saks Fifth Avenue.

In the thrift store, she can buy a pair of khakis for $2, more or less. She can find a nice jacket for $3. She is loyal to the stores in northeastern Alabama but admits there is a special thrill in the ones on the Gulf Coast.

"Them rich folks," she explained, "throw away some nice stuff."

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She used to like a good antiques/junk store, too, till last year. She got tired as she was perusing the long rows of an antiques mall in Daphne, Alabama, and sat in a chair with a "do not sit" sign, which was obviously meant for other people.

As I circled back to her minutes later, I saw her motioning to me, almost frantic. "Ricky," she whispered, "that man over there is starin' at me."

"Who?" I asked.

"That man," she said, pointing. There was no one there, except a life-size terra-cotta statue of a Chinese soldier.

"How long has he been lookin' at you?" I asked.

"Since I sat down," she said.

The cataract surgery might not have been as successful as we had hoped.

So, in this slowly dying winter, we will stick to the thrift store. The selection may not be as good, but at least we know the coatrack is unlikely to flirt with her and the shoe bin will not ask for her phone number.