Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Thank God for roadside flea markets

Anyone who has seen the front of my car knows where I came up with the idea for the title of this blog. I have a pink and white tag that reads: “TGIF: Thank God I’m Female.”

I love to watch people, particularly men, walk by the car, stop, read the tag, smile and shake their heads as they think about the true meaning of the tag.

For me, it is significant for many reasons.

If my memory serves me correctly, the tag was one of the last things (if not the very last thing) my ex bought for me.

I still can remember the smug look on his face as he pulled into the lot where a guy had set up one of those “day booths” on the highway.

You’ve seen them. They catch your eye with the rebel flags flying from a ramshackle canopy on the side of the highway. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they have rugs ranging from wolf prints to renditions of some of Elvis’ most famous moments hanging on makeshift clotheslines.

My ex was almost giddy as he pulled into the lot and told me I could pick out anything I wanted. He was buying.

I thought I made it perfectly clear that no matter what was on sale, I did not want it.

For one, I wanted nothing from the ex. He had given me quite enough already, namely two children he would not support and about four years worth of unhappiness.

Still, he persisted. He wanted to buy me something. He had just received his paycheck, and since a bar was not within sight, he had to spend his money somewhere. It was burning a hole in his pocket, and God forbid he pay a bill or buy some groceries. He earned his money for two things: beer and anything that constituted a good time for him.

He pulled into the lot, and I stepped out of the car.

I noticed a table full of junk, cases upon cases of hunting knives, key chains, homemade wallets, flags and license plates.

I didn’t need a wallet chain, marbles or a gaudy, oversized turquoise and sterling silver ring. I started scanning the license plates.

The ex asked how much they were. They guy said $7. The ex said I could pick out a license plate because he could afford $7. I guess a hunting knife was out of the question.

I’m sure the ex thought I would choose a tag of his liking, something that indicated I had huge knockers or could drink more beer than anyone else. I passed on the camouflage tag he suggested and shook my head when he showed me Calvin peeing on an OSU logo. I didn’t particularly care for the caricature of the 10-point buck, either.

Then, I spotted it. It was white with pink trim – the only girly-looking item on the entire lot.

I read it out loud: “TGIF: Thank God I’m Female.” I laughed out loud and said without hesitation or another thought, “I’ll take that one.”

The vendor searched through his inventory and pulled out a brand new plate covered in plastic wrap.

The ex, who was browsing the arrowheads and roach clips, saw that I had made a choice and yelled across the lot, “Did you find one?”

“Yep!” I smiled, anxiously awaiting his reaction upon seeing the last gift – and one of the only gifts – he would soon buy for me.

He made his way over to me.

“Let me see,” he said. I could tell by his anticipation he was hoping to find in my hands a tag that possibly revealed breasts or a silhouette of a naked lady or even a faux neon Budweiser sign.

He grabbed the plate from my hands.

“TGIF: Thank God I’m Female,” he read. The smile disappeared from his face, forcing the chew in his lower lip to protrude a bit.

He shook his head and glared at me. He handed me the tag back and said, “If I had known that was the one you were going to pick, I wouldn’t have stopped!”

He dug out $7 from his pocket as I skipped back to the car, grinning from ear to ear, thrilled we had stopped at the one-day flea market.

We drove home, and I immediately dug out a screwdriver and installed the plate on the front of my car.

I’ve gotten more smiles, waves, comments, thumbs up and nods from that car tag than I can count. Its meaning is simple yet a little complex if you really start thinking about it.

It reminds me of a question our youth minister’s wife asked us in high school. She asked us the age-old question, “If you could be anyone in the world, who would it be?”

I was a sophomore at the time. I thought long and hard about all the stars and influential people of the late 1980s. I couldn’t think of a single person I would rather be.

When it came my turn to answer, I said, “I just want to be myself. Everyone has problems, and everyone has the potential to make a difference. I would rather just be myself than turn into someone else who has a completely different set of problems to deal with. Maybe if I just deal with my own life and do enough in the world, someone will want to be me someday.”

It felt good to feel that way, and I meant every word.

I lost that mindset after high school. I let myself get so low that everyone’s lives looked better than mine. I yearned for that confidence I had at the age of 16.

I got a little of it back when I slapped that car tag on the front of my car. That teenage confidence was re-rooted and has been thriving ever since.

TGIF: Thank God I’m Female, and thank God for the roadside flea-market on Highway 11.

Today’s readings:

Matthew 5:33-48
Acts 8:1-25
Psalm 13
Genesis 31

“My enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,’ and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.” - Psalm 13:4-6

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