Saturday, Sept. 12

Before leaving the Berkshires Labor Day weekend, I dropped into the Upstairs Basement thrift shop in Lee for a valedictory pillage. A handwritten sign announced that Bunny had passed away and funeral arrangements would be posted.

I was surprised to learn that this great figure in my couture life had a real name: Helen W. Larson. To us summer people she was Bunny, carefully marking and remarking price tags, ringing up clothing (shoes, lingerie, furniture, housewares) purchases while we eyed the snarky sign behind her desk: "I can only please one person a day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow doesn't look good either."

To those who could imagine winter in July, a wool sweater could cost a dollar. Customers comfortable in the past could find cream pitchers and wooden napkin holders. Fashion advice might be, "I see no reason why that should not be yours."

Now that thrift and consignment shops are more necessary and less secret, year-round residents will resurrect their own stories. Mine is that my kids learned about money in that shop: I'd give them each $10, which would buy 5 to 15 things to wear or play with, and turn them loose. If they chose a cut velvet dress for school and it came home with ketchup on it, well, goodbye dress, it was almost too small anyway. If an item was not appropriate, peer pressure would take care of that and I escaped involvement.

By the time they were about ten, they'd developed a sense of what they needed and what worked for them, so in New York City they could be trusted with my credit card. We owe Bunny for that.

The sign in the Upstairs Basement said the store will remain open. Forever, I hope.