The Five Dollar Flea Market Field Trip

We are that family. We stop at parking lot carnivals, plan an extra day for vacation travel just so we can stop at kitschy souvenir shops, frequent the Latina Super Mercado down the street because they have great pasteles and paletas, experiment with charcoal masks for fun (Oh, please tell me you saw that video! No, click here!) and will most likely buy something from the least busy person at the farmer’s market even if we already own twenty bars of homemade goat’s milk soap. We want to do and try everything! We want to meet people and hear their stories! But of all our experiences and encounters, my favorite was our spontaneous five dollar flea market field trip.

I’ve loved the flea market ever since I was a little girl! It’s a trove of treasures hidden among years of memories and the scent of rotisserie hot dogs and fried, well, fried anything. During our last years in Ohio, we lived less than five minutes from the Caesar’s Creek Flea Market. Those years, while among our most financially difficult, were some of the most blessed, educational, and fun-filled that Jamie and I have had in our seventeen-years of marriage.

We prepped the kiddos the night before: We’re going somewhere in the morning, we have to wake really early, and we each get to take five dollars.

That was it. Five dollars.

Jamie and I knew, if you want to get the good stuff, you have to get there early. We didn’t have a lot of extra money at the time, but we had twenty dollars.

“If you want the good stuff, you have to get there early.”

I remember it was chilly, but would warm up as the day progressed. Our kiddos were excited, ready to SPEND! The goal of the day was to buy whatever you wanted, but you could only spend five dollars–those rules applied to us too! Kensi, 8 or 9 at the time, took her time, studied the wares of the outdoor vendors and decided to hold off any spending until she got inside. Jack, 5ish, had his eye on the sweets–Amish homemade goodies, cotton candy, candy by the pound. Me, I would spend my five outside. I never cared much for the indoor vendors, I preferred (and still do) the vintage goods and eclectic variety set up outside in rows in the dusty parking lot. Jamie . . . I don’t remember, but chances are he only had his eye on us, watching his family having fun, pondering how best to spend our allotment.

The details of the day are vague, even though the joy lodged in those memories remain. Jack left with food, Kensi and Jamie . . . I have no idea, and me, a haul of wire shelving (that the owner gave to me because he was in awe that I was actually willing to pay for them), an Eshelman & Sons’ feed sack (now a pair of pillows), a penny box, and a pair of binoculars (oh that lovely case!). Five dollars and I had enough home decor to play with for a good while.

But it wasn’t about our stuff, it was about our time together–a time when twenty dollars would have been a nice addition to our grocery money but instead gave us a unique day of laughing, contemplating, negotiating, and declaring victory–all before lunchtime. It was a day, despite the memory lapse in details, that we have never forgotten. As a family, we’ve cruised the Bahamas, taken two trips to Disney, and hopped in the car for dozens of random road trips, but it was that day and the five dollars that stand out the most.

I’ll always prefer a flea market to the mall or a small town dive to a trendy restaurant. And I will always prefer simple time with my family–Dole Whip floats and Uno night–to time bound by finances or months of planning.

We are that family, and I am good with that. So, grab your five dollars and go spend time with your family!




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