One of the quintessential free piles in Maine.

A bed or a baby stove anyone?

I can’t help it.  I am my mother’s child (I wrote about this for Oprah’s magazine). Driving down the country lanes of Maine, I’ll screech to the side, flip a u-turn, walk back if I have to. A pile of junk with a “free” sign at its edge is better and more intriguing than an Italiam museum or French bakery. The problem is, there are too many free piles in Maine.

Too Late!

“You’ve got to stop,” said Ethan when I called him while out for a bike ride down Shore Road. I’d stumbled across the mother of all free piles–the sign had even been modified to read “Free–ALL OF IT!” Someone had died, I think, and there were Brooks Brothers suits, ash cans, bound copies of The Atlantic Monthly from the early 1900s, and lots of other treasures dotting the front lawn of the empty estate. “Just get over here!” I urged. By the time he arrived in The Oddy (remember the Honda Odyssey min-van we drove cross-country in 2010?), I’d created my own pile from the free pile: a wooden, 8-person sled, two paintings (ruined by the rain but not the frames!), an outdoor extension cord in great shape, and two boxes of records–Classical music, all of them. We’d recently found a record player in one of the cabinets of our new-old house. “It’s fate!” I said as Ethan lugged our new stuff to the van. i couldn’t see his face but I’m sure he was rolling his eyes. 

Trash or treasure? A quintessential Maine free-pile!

Trash…or treasure?

But Ethan is semi-addicted too. He’s just more picky. By far, the best free pile find so far is an old marble coffee table he spotted on the side of Bluff Road, the tell-tale sign attached. “It’s been left out in the rain and the base is wobbly,” he said when he called. “It weighs about 100 pounds so I want to make sure you like it before I drag it home.” 

The base sort of…well…disintegrated when we picked the table up to hoist it into The Oddy, but no matter. Bases are easy–a cut birch log maybe, or more white granite from one of the many quarries in Maine. The table top was creamy smooth, not one chip, and the painted hunter green edge matched my painted wood floors on the screened in porch. After I spent half an hour cleaning it, the marble gleamed a satisfying white in the afternoon sun. Now, if only that table could talk…

An antique white marble table found in the free pile in Maine.

Perfect Find!