It’s in My Genes

It’s in My Genes

  I am the daughter of junkers.  Most are unfamiliar with the title “junker” because it exists in rural areas of the South, a term reserved for the dialects of the most country populations of southern Appalachia.  By definition, a “junker” is a German nobleman or aristocrat, esp. a member of the Prussian aristocracy (citation). My parents were famous; however, it certainly wasn’t due to a royal lineage. Their fame was gained strictly by their uncanny ability to spot a treasure in the midst of trash.  That’s the job of a junker: to single out a rare antique, collectible, or piece of pottery others have discarded or misappropriated. The search for these treasures took my two sisters and me into the tiny towns and backwoods of western North Carolina, the hollows of Tennessee, the boondocks of Georgia, the podunks of Kentucky, the whistle stops of West Virginia, and the confederate towns of Virginia. My dad’s fame for discovering china cabinets in barns, corner cupboards in sheds, hall trees in attics, and pie safes in chicken coops developed and thrived during these trips.  My mom’s talent showed in her ability to unearth a rare piece of pottery beneath piles of discarded housewares or recognize a valuable carving sitting on the crowded shelves of Goodwill. Her instinct combined with my dad’s knowledge made for an unbeatable pawn in the game of junking. Their teamwork earned them the trusted middle-man position for auctioneers, antique dealers, shop owners, and more.  Daddy and Mama found the goods, fixed some up if necessary, and turned an unbelievable profit on most of their finds. Their reputation as two of the best was earned by their skill, not through glamorized creations of the media like stars on Storage Wars, Pawn Stars, and American Pickers.  No, my parents were famous before the reality shows of today even existed.  Their stories and experiences outmatch any fabricated versions of those produced behind the scenes of Hollywood’s cameras. Their names, Tommy and Rea, treasures on the tongues of many.  Their lives, a legacy.  Their passion for the treasure hunt, innate and as ingrained on the DNA of my sisters and me as the genes which make each of us theirs. I am a junker.  My need to find the good amidst the ugly drives me in my daily routine.  My search for that hidden gem, buried beneath years of trash, consumes me, literally and figuratively.  You see, I cringe at the thought of paying full price for anything.  The only mall you’ll find me in is an antique mall.  I’ll choose a thrift store over a high-priced boutique any day of the week.  A flea market is my Macy’s; I am simply giddy as I park and make my way into the rows of dealers on an early Saturday morning.  Driving by a yard sale sign produces in me a compulsion to stop that is as hard to ignore as fixing an out of place object is for someone with OCD.  I can track down a consignment store on family vacations to the beach.  I know when the local Goodwill gets the best donations.  I am not above dumpster diving, much to the embarrassment of my husband, who often finds himself unwillingly involved in my search.  I simply love the promise of a bargain or good deal. My house is furnished by many a Craigslist find, with one of my hunts taking my husband begrudgingly into a dangerous part of Durham, NC to secure a beautiful, like-new, brown chaise lounge for a steal at $175.00.  My good friend loaned us her van so we could make the 40-minute drive to Fuquay Varina, where a lovely dining room suite awaited us.  A quick search for “bunk bed” under “baby + kids,” a drive to Chapel Hill, and my son’s new big-boy bed was riding home in the back of our neighbor’s pick-up truck.  A couple of years later, I combed through dozens of hits for “girl’s bed,” sent an email, made a phone call, and drove a few exits down I-40 where the seller helped me load a sweet little trundle bed into my own van for my daughter’s big-girl room.  My best find, a wooden play set with two swings, rings, slide, and climbing wall, required a U-Haul and some extra muscle to get it set up in our backyard.  Our house displays the rewards of my junkin’ labors. When I’m not virtual junkin’, I’m looking for live sales.  I love when I get the chance to attend an auction or an estate sale.  Unlike consignment stores, antique malls, and flea markets, there’s an element of...

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