Ok, kids are in bed, have my laptop, my husband is mumbling something about the turkey he ate being bad….but for right now…I’m blocking it all out. Just going to sit, take a deep breath, and focus. I haven’t been here in a long time. So…hello.
When I look at the last date that I wrote on my blog, I’m a bit shocked, surprised, saddened but also excited. There’s been so much going on these past few years that even getting back to doing a favorite thing such as writing is such a joy. I guess there couldn’t be a more perfect time for me to sit down and write this next entry.
Since moving to Detroit from Omaha, NE, almost 12 years ago, I’ve been so overwhelmed by the sense of “community” here. So many people think of Detroit as being everything it is in the news…and it can definitely be that…but it’s so much more. It’s the people here that make it so special. The people that mix and melt and mesh together that make me so proud to have the chance to raise my children here. I actually feel more at home here than I have anywhere else and many people that I’ve known for years have found that difficult to understand.
Growing up in Nebraska, it was just my mom, my sisters and I. My father left us when I was 12, I had a sister that was 5 and a very baby sister that was 6 months old. We definitely lived on the “wrong side of the tracks” in our part of Omaha. There was that divide between the wealthy kids and us kids from our area very far away literally and figuratively from the “rich kids.” My dad was gone, my mother struggled to get by, and also struggled with her mental illness. She tried to keep it all together while keeping food on our table. We survived with the help of some very saddened grandparents, WIC, Food Stamps and very generous, anonymous angels from our church. I remember asking myself…will the shame I feel ever disappear? How will I ever meet a friend outside our neighborhood that will accept me? How will I get out of this abyss?
We needed to shop at thrift stores out of necessity. At the time, it was so horrible for me…as a teenager, there was an embarrassment that set into my soul in the beginning that was almost unbearable. The pain of even thinking that someone would find out that I had to shop at a Goodwill or Salvation Army was just simply too much. But there was nothing we, as a family, could do. I remember so much about these stores back in the 80s. I can almost remember the smell of some of them. I can see the dirt underneath the racks, the condition of the items coming in.
About this time, “Pretty In Pink,” with Molly Ringwald was released in theaters. That movie changed my life. When Molly’s character, “Andie,” is faced with the heartache of watching her father endure hardship in his life, she does what she has to do to get by, by making her own clothes, etc. I thought to myself…I need to make this experience work in order to get through these high school years. I would only purchase clothes at the thrift stores with labels that said Gap, Liz Claiborne, Guess, etc., with the babysitting money I earned. That way, if anyone from school asked me where I got my shirt, pants from, etc., I would just remember the tag on the label so I wasn’t completely lying. When you’re buying things for $1.00, you can sure get a lot of clothes. By the time I was in high school, I remember one of my friends said…”Wow, Christy…you must be so rich, I never see you in the same thing twice!” I thought to myself…if you only knew. My house is such a wreck, our washer and dryer are in our kitchen.
As I grew older and our mother became increasingly ill, she ended up needing to be placed in and out of mental hospitals. She would get so sick, get lost and the police would find her in the snow two weeks later, completely barefoot. It devastated our family. When the police ended up putting her in a state hospital and one of their “doctors” ended up hurting her…my younger sister and I drove two hours to this hospital, in our Goodwill outfits, sat across the longest conference table you could ever imagine, and I threatened the head of this hospital to go to every TV station, radio station and newspaper in the state until they released our mother to us so we could take her to a different hospital.
And all of that was done in black pants and a black and turquoise jacket that I picked up at Goodwill. I was 25 years old. I’m 41 now. It’s amazing these moments that stick out in your head…and how the moment can be so intense that even your clothes are burned in your mind.
Goodwill was a matter of survival for my family. Now it’s kind of “hip” to shop at thrift stores and trust me, I’m still a thrift shopper…love vintage clothes, the thrill of the hunt, etc. But deep down inside of me…I’ll always have that ashamed, little girl that remembers what it was like to have my “secret.” But now that little girl realizes the joy of being able to grow up and move on and not care one bit about what people may think. There is no more fear.
I had a connection to Goodwill Industries of Detroit last year and went to them with this idea of having a fashion show. What Goodwill did for me…what SO many people have done for my sisters and me in our lives…I’ll never be able to repay them all. But in some small way, if there was anything I could do for Goodwill, this was an idea I had. But wouldn’t you know it…they already had it on their radar. This is now the “Second Annual” Goodwill Fashion Show and I’ve told people that I have big dreams for it in years to come. Their “Shop For Jobs” program is phenomenal, especially in this area. That’s why I feel so at home here. You’re giving so much more than money to Goodwill when you’re purchasing items from them. You could be giving back someone’s dignity again. Someone’s hope, their self-worth.
If you’ve finished this to the end, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
If not, I understand. I’m this wordy in person as I am on paper.
If you’d like to attend an amazing Goodwill event, please come to our fashion show on April 27th, at 11am, at their new store in Dearborn. It’s going to be such a great way to give back to our communities. Please see our poster (here) for more info.
Have a WONDERFUL day and happy shopping!