On Monday, Ben took the day off to finalize our house sale, arrange for utility hookups and other tedious details of the upcoming moving day. We took Amanda to school and once the morning tasks were completed, we had several hours before our closing appointment. Determined to get as much done as possible, we drove to the bordering town to check out a recommended consignment store. Arriving at our destination, I was dismayed to see that they were closed on Mondays. I was on a mission to find two comfortable reading chairs and had heard they may have just what I wanted, but my itch to decorate a house I didn’t yet have would have to wait.
As I walked back to the car, I spotted a used wicker chaise across the street in front of a seemingly dilapidated building. I asked Ben to pull in and am so glad I did. The shop was actually an antique store and was fairly large with many different pieces of furniture and small trinkets. I’ll admit, I am not the type who enjoys browsing or buying antiques, but in this unique shop I found two treasures I would otherwise have missed.
As Ben precariously made his way around the packed shop to examine an original confederate soldier uniform, I discovered an amazing mahogany mirror back behind a 1940 sewing machine and tucked underneath an ancient dining table. My daughter’s room is being decorated using Asian accents and the mirror had the familiar shape of many pieces we had seen on our trips to Thailand. Pulling out my Chinese bartering skills, I negotiated the price to $28 and I tried not to show my glee at obtaining such a great deal.
The woman at the register, Ruth—she told us to call her—reminded me of much thinner Aunt Bee from Mayberry. She flitted around the counter just as nimble as an elf and her smile at making a sale could have warmed any cold heart. Close to the counter an older man with white hair and a kind face sat perched on a barstool and observed our transaction while listening closely to all of our bantering back and forth. I almost felt like I was tossed back in time and their laid back way of life in the small community was a jolt to my too-fast-multi-tasking-stressed personality.
As I carried on a dialogue with her, I was weighing the pros and cons of their lifestyle compared to mine and concluding that they had the better deal. Peace, quiet and a slower pace was exactly what I have been dreaming of and they experienced it every day.
Ruth began to tell us of an upcoming antique show scheduled for the next weekend. Thank goodness I actually had other plans and did not have to make up an excuse, but instead told her of the adoption conference I would be attending in Tennessee that weekend. The quiet man suddenly stood up and asked, “Do you have you adopted children?”
“No, I am an advocate for orphans but I have not adopted any children.” I explained to him about my years in China working in the orphanage and how I now try to raise awareness about institutional care.
As I talked, he seemed about to burst to tell me something and when I finished my explanation, he said, “My wife and I adopted two daughters from Korea.”
That statement started a very interesting conversation. He informed me he was one of— possibly the first— to adopt internationally. He adopted his first daughter in 1976 and his second in 1980. He said both adoptions only cost a total of $1000, but that was before the agencies discovered they could get rich from it, he added.
I asked him how his daughters were now and I explained to him that I rarely have a chance to talk to an adopted parent with grown children—and that it was fascinating to me. He said they adjusted wonderfully and one was now an accountant and the other worked in the communications field. They grew up in Ohio and later the entire family moved to the South and that is where both girls are now living with their own families, all located very close together.
Our conversation flowed easily and I found myself wishing we could stay and talk for hours—I had so many unspoken questions; Did they go through an agency? Was it complicated? What was the wait time? What about the process was different? Did they travel over and see their daughters’ first? Did the girls still observe their heritage? So much was swirling around in my head but it was time for us to head to our last appointment and I also didn’t want to infringe on his privacy by asking questions that may be too personal. I gave the proud father my card and asked him to give it to his wife so that she might contact me and possibly build a friendship that would allow me to know more about their story.
We left the shop and as we loaded my first discovered treasure into the car, I looked up and saw the second unexpected treasure who was watching me through the window. Who would have thought I would have been gifted with such a rare encounter in a quaint antique shop located in a tiny southern town…