From a very early age, I knew I was different. I was never very good in school and had a hard time paying attention and retaining information for any length of time. I never understood why. I just knew my thoughts were scattered all over the place; I could not seem to quiet my mind. I didn’t feel good about myself. I was loved by my family and had a good home life, but there was something missing that I couldn’t describe, until, I had my first drink, and I thought, Wow! I feel better; I feel alive; I feel “good”.
I felt good about myself when I drank; I was on top of the world, and I could do anything! This was the beginning of a long spiraling downhill journey for the next 30 years of my life.
In 2008, the reality of my world came crashing down on me, and I had to make a decision to live or to die. I chose to live. I went to treatment for the next four months and chose to let my job go in order to get my life back. I had a husband and two wonderful children that needed me. When I came home from treatment, it was very difficult to enter the world again. I had no job, and I was still pretty weak mentally and physically, even though I had come a long way.
While in treatment I began rediscovering myself, as I had never done before. It was really quite amazing. I found that I loved to create! This seemed very foreign to me, but it came naturally, to my surprise! It was like being reborn. I found myself discovering things about myself that I had never known, and I was 52 years old. A whole new world was at my feet, and I wasn’t sure what to do with it.
I had a lot of time on my hands now. I was home and had to find something to do that was healthy for me. My family had always been interested in antiques, collecting, going to flea markets and estate sales. Growing up, my mother refinished furniture as she had a love for old things, and our family regularly passed things around. I’m laughing aloud now because we never got rid of anything. Sound familiar?
When I got my first apartment, everything I owned was given to me from family members. They didn’t need it, so guess what? I got it, and I needed it. I’ve never had much money—oh enough to just get by, though barely at times—so I held on to things in case I ever needed them, and I treasured those things. These things meant something to me because they were my roots, and I couldn’t let go of them. A lot of these things I still have, a lot I have passed on to my children and a lot I have since given to other people in need.
In my rediscovery of myself, I needed to find my tribe—my people. I couldn’t hang around with the same people I had before. I had to distance myself for a good while. My mother and I got a booth at a local antique mall, and she and I started gathering things to put in our booth to sell. A lot of the items came from our own homes and were the things we could let go of. Letting go is hard, especially if it is something you have had for a very long time, so this was difficult for me. It was a process of elimination.
If you are like me, you look at the item and think about the person that owned it, that held it, that loved it and cherished it.
My mother and I had a great time going to sales and finding unique items to resell in our booth. Through this first step in my recovery, I really started to enjoy this. I began painting old unwanted furniture and giving it new life; in turn, it gave me new life. I met several people at the antique mall who enjoyed this as well. We started doing things together, going to sales together and painting together. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I had found my tribe!
In 2009, I created a Facebook group. I thought I would just create this group for a few of us that enjoy the same things. I added some of my new friends I had made along this creative journey. Facebook required a name to create our social media group, so I named it, “Southern Junkers”. We all loved junk, and we’re in the South, so this just made sense!
Before I knew it, the group started to grow. People were posting their finds and creations, and we were all getting to know each other. A few of us would also meet for lunches. My life had taken a whole new turn! I was enjoying life for the first time in a very long time. These people “got me”. They were creatives, authentic and real. I realized for the first time in my life that I had been really living a lie. I was trying to be what other people wanted me to be, expected me to be and that wasn’t me at all. My new tribe liked me and wanted to be a part of what I had created. My life was just beginning. The child within me was about to explore new experiences for the first time. Have you ever had that feeling, where you look in awe and wonder at things like you have never seen them before? I did, and truly I do not think I had ever seen them before. It was a whole new experience for me.
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”
My group on Facebook was not a selling group; it was a sharing group. A lot of us sold things but needed the right forum. I had a scary thought. What if I could get enough of us to set up and sell our creations and finds? I asked my friend who owned a business in Memphis if we could set up in his huge parking lot to sell, and he said yes!
I had never put something together like this, but it was happening. I posted it publicly on my group page, and to my surprise, 30 people were interested. My first market was held in October of 2012. My father passed away three days prior to the event. He had been ill for a while, and we knew it was coming but still were not prepared. I knew I was stronger than I had been; I knew I would get through this—hopefully without drinking—and I did. I wanted and needed to feel the pain of losing my biggest fan, my father. This was my truth. I allowed myself this for the first time in my life, and it was the hardest thing I had to face, sober.
The 2012 market was a huge success, and a lot of fun, so I planned another market for the spring of 2013 located at the same location, which was another great show! After a couple of years, I hosted a market at an additional venue, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, which had more customers than I could ever have expected! As a result, I decided to host events indoors, so they could be open rain or shine. Initially, I thought I would never be able to host an indoor event because the cost was so expensive; however, after pounding away on the computer every night for six months putting the word out, advertising and promoting, it too was a huge success.
I am both humbled and grateful like I have never been before with the success of Southern Junkers Vintage Market. This person that I never dreamed could ever do anything like this was me, the true authentic me. Back at this time, there were not a lot of vintage antique markets. I just knew that I enjoyed putting these markets together, and people loved them. There was no plan; the success of Southern Junkers just happened. Much of the credit for the success is due to the incredible vendors who work so hard and so diligently at what they do; if not for these creatives, this would not be possible.
The designers, creators, and all of us that love vintage make this possible. I am so very proud of the vendors that participate in the Southern Junkers Vintage Market. Most of them started out with us in our humble beginnings in a parking lot and have grown with us since the very beginning. Since that time, vendors from across the country have come to set up with us here in Memphis, and I would like to thank each and every one of you. You are the ones that make this possible!
We all need to support our local independent markets that have worked so very hard for years to make their businesses what they are today.
The Southern Junkers Vintage Market is a household name in the Memphis area. Everyone looks forward to our spring and fall shows. I am truly amazed that just a simple thought has turned into such passion and love. I have met the most amazing people along my journey and couldn’t have done it without you.
To all of you, that love the old, tattered, stained, and broken—they still have life. I am living proof. Thank you to my family (my mother, my father and my sister, Suzanne) for believing in me, and to my husband and children—I love you very much.
To all of those who suffer from addiction, there is hope. You can follow your dreams and live a healthy good life. If I can do it, so can you. I look forward to meeting you all someday.