I stopped in front of a nondescript booth, my attention drawn by an old clarinet resting in its frayed case. A long-put-aside memory from grade school flickered bravely in my head. “Do you play?” I turned toward a grey-haired woman with a pleasant smile, aging but (as I remind myself often these days) probably no older than I. “No, not really. Just in the 4th grade”. We traded grade school clarinet memories, hers much better-formed than mine. Feeling comfortable now, I asked her what I’d been wanting to ask vendors all day – why was she here? She said that she was downsizing and keen on simplifying her life, and that she needed to get rid of things she had accumulated over the years.
Oh, the irony. Here was a flea market extravaganza, with over 800 vendors displaying wares for thousands of shoppers over three days, all there to buy this same “stuff” and take it home, adding it to their lives – bottles and buckets, knick-knacks, yard art, old croquet sets and family photos of someone else’s family. Acres and acres of stuff. I watched a woman buy a 60’s-vintage plastic alarm clock, saying to her husband, “My mom and dad had this exact alarm clock next to their bed!” What was she going to do with that clock?
Of course, I’m supposed to be culling this year. After 6 hours shopping and observing, I bought nothing except for lunch. All I brought home were photos. Like a moth drawn to a flame, though, I’m sure I’ll return next year.