EssayThat One Piece

That One Piece: The Perfect Blue Globe

by Erin Austen Abbott

When I was in college — in the mid-90s — I discovered the art of thrifting. I was working in a vintage store at the time in Tampa, FL called Decades Ago-Go. My bosses Laura and Dan taught me so much about vintage and all the things to look for when out shopping. This was before eBay and when thrift stores were still like time capsules. A place where childhoods went to rest and whole lives were spelled out: the same name over and over, etched into a dresser, scribbled in a book, names sewn into jackets. It’s as if parents just dumped everything belonging to their children into one place, hoping new memories were found.

In 1999 I moved to Seattle, and my then boyfriend and I would go thrift stores, estate sales, and yard sales almost daily so that we could sell at the Fremont Market each Sunday. This market was a mix of vintage booths and your traditional farmed goods. It was so fun and got to a point where we had people regularly coming to the market just to see what we had found that week. It was such a fun time in my life. It felt like the most carefree time, too. I was in graduate school and teaching, but didn’t have a job that came home with me other than looking for vintage goods. I could thrift as little or as much as I wanted.

Around the same time, I was beginning to collect globes for myself. I’d always had an affinity for them, but only owned one at the time. In a span of about a two years that number jumped to about 15 globes. I was obsessed with them, but I had a rule. I could only buy found ones. Meaning I couldn’t go on eBay to search for one. It was as if I told myself that the globes had to come to me. Some had really cool bases, some had the most amazing coloring. There was one in particular that stood out to me. Not because it was anything special. It didn’t have a fancy base and wasn’t that old at the time. It did, however, have a blue and green coloring to it that was more special than all the rest. I was drawn to it and wanted to make sure to keep it for years to come.

A couple of years later, as my relationship was coming to an end, it was time to part ways and sell things off. I had the idea to head to all the vendors at the Fremont Market and tell them about the yard sale I was having a couple of weeks later. I would be selling off all my vintage booth stock and clearing out my home, too. It seemed like a great plan. Well, it worked a little too well. Cars were lined up down the road and people were pacing in front of my home… all before 6am. I was sold out of everything I planned on selling in about an hour. I started frantically searching through my apartment for more things to sell. I grabbed a few globes and headed outside. They were snatched up quickly, as globes were still a rare thing to collect in 2001. As the morning ended and I cleaned everything up, I realized I had grabbed the wrong globe. I had sold my favorite one.

I’ve scoured thrift stores and even broken my rules and looked on eBay for one like it, but to no avail. I haven’t been able to find one like it 18 years later. I’ve come close, but the blue would be a little off or the size wasn’t right. I found one sort of similar when I lived in Los Angeles, but it caught on fire when my roommate’s lamp was a little too close to it. I took that as a sign and have stopped looking. If one comes back to me in the future, I’ll welcome it. Until then, I like to imagine that it’s off traveling around the world, or it’s been passed down and is now making some little girl very happy. We never really know where our beloved possessions end up once they leave our hands. I like to think only good thoughts, though. —Erin

Illustration by Heather Sundquist Hall

Read the rest of the “That One Piece” series from the whole Design*Sponge team.

That One Piece That Got Away on Design*Sponge
Just a portion of the globes I still have today. While they're not the one I lost, these globes make me happy. They are all beautiful. Maybe I have one that someone else lost a long time ago and hopefully I can treasure it the way they once did.

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  • We had a globe like the big one in the middle growing up, I can still imagine the sensation of spinning it fast and trailing my little fingers on it until it stopped, leaving me to imagine what that place might be like. This post makes me sad and nostalgic but now I’m inspired to keep an eye out for second hand globes!