The other day I was quietly going about my business of stitch witchery, when all of a sudden the little voice in my head started screaming at me. “yarn kitties, YARN kitties, YARN KITTIES!!!!”. Those two words opened a floodgate of childhood memories for me, some of which I will share with you now.First, a bit of background. Between the ages of 3 and 17, my mother woke my brother and I up every Saturday and Sunday morning at 5 am (usually by rudely pulling off our warm cozy blankets after the 3rd gentle attempt to awaken us proved unavailing). Why, WHY, would she do this to us?
Well, to go to Englishtown Auction Sales of course. Yes, but why? WHY?
Because our family business was comprised of selling men’s shirts at the flea market, usually at $8ea./ 2 for $15 (a steal). My mom’s tag line (recited in a heavy undistinguishable accent) was, “Men’s Sherts, 50 cotton / 50 poly, machine wash and jus heng ‘em up.” My father liked to berate the customers (not sure why, he was generally a really nice guy). He would answer their inquiries into the cost of a certain item with the question, “How much would you like to pay?” When they inevitably said something like, “$5 dollars”, he would respond that they were too cheap to buy from him and send them on their way. At this point my mom would swoop in with the good cop routine and whisper to the stunned customer that her husband was just a crank and she would hook them up with the good stuff. Interesting sales technique. For those of you not lucky enough to be from Jersey, or not lucky enough to have visited the famous Englishtown Auction, let me explain. It is the largest flea market in the world. 40 acres of outdoor selling space, 5 buildings with indoor vendors, a tavern, anything and everything you could ever want to buy, and amazing food. Yes, this is where I acquired my love for digging through piles of junk to find the ultimate score.
My family had a store called Casual Center (briefly renamed Speed Limit 55… for which I will take no credit) in the Red Building, which was also home to The Motorcycle Mama, Steve’s Steaks, Pillow Talk, and the Pretzel Guy among others. The best bagels in the world were in the Yellow Building. The shore-style French Fry Guy (serving up a paper bag full of piping hot fries topped with vinegar) was in the Blue Building. The Green Building housed the Army/Navy store where I got my vintage combat boots and old Levi’s in high school. The stationary/trinket store was in the Brown Building. Memories from that time are not foreign to me, I dream about the flea market in detail almost every night, in fact a couple weeks ago I was in the lingerie shop of the Yellow Building with Russell Brand (don’t ask me, ask my subconscious). It seems my inner voice really wants to remember Englishtown in all of its glory. Maybe it wants me to write a book. Maybe I will. But for now, just this short story.
I held many different positions at the flea market: At age four I was the cute little kid that lured customers into the shop with, “Hi, welcome to Casual Center, how can I help you today?” Around seven my brother and I would walk around the flea market during the holiday season wearing aprons full of quarters and selling paper shopping bags for 25 cents each (we made a killing). At age eight I acquired the long standing, and prestigious, position of ‘sign maker’ for my family (I was the only member who could pen bubble letters).
At 9 years old I started working for the little old lady that sold yarn items at a stand near our store.
Which brings me to the YARN KITTIES. I can picture the woman’s face clearly in my mind, but i can’t remember her name, so I will call her Mabel. Mabel made crocheted Barbie Gowns that acted as toilet paper roll covers (don’t pretend you have no idea… unless you are not a child of the eighties… in which case, you have no idea). She also hocked crochet Christmas ornaments, hats, cozies, and of course her biggest seller, the Yarn Kitty. I helped her wrap the yarn around the cardboard, pompom style.Since the day last week when my brain started yelling at me, I have been consumed with making yarn creations. Yes, yes I do fear that I might become the crazy yarn lady whose every inch of usable space is covered in these creations, nonetheless I present to you:
THE YARN OWL.WHOOOOOO doesn’t love the yarn owl?