I went to a country flea market last week. Ate a cheeseburger, and noticed a little bit of everything. What really got to me were the stark contrasts. On one stand, you had farmers dishing up baked goods. A few feet away, you had knives and tasers, and on another stand there were all these statement accessories. There was a prayer tent, too.

The flags

If you can believe it, the owner of the featured stand above sold some of the nicer flags. There were so many divisive and rude slogans. The kind where I thought “I hope I don’t ever run into an argument with you.”

Another vendor had “F*ck” Biden on his accessories. Flags and hats, mostly. My 7-year-old saw it and was shocked. He has heard swearwords before but knows not to say them because we just don’t.

“Mommy, look at that. That is so, so mean to say about someone,” he said.

I explained that it is, in fact very mean to say that to someone or about someone, including a president, but sometimes adults say and do mean things simply because they don’t agree with each other.

“Sometimes, kids know better than adults,” I said.

I don’t see the point in all those far-right and also far-left slogans on everything. It is so polarizing. We live in the same country, and a flag like that is not going to help anyone get along and certainly not unite people.

Boozy pies

I mean, the creativity!

I never would’ve thought to put alcohol in a dessert but this is America; The United States, where everything is possible. I am not sure how these cute little pies taste because although the desserts looked intriguing, I enjoy my alcohol in the form of the occasional glass of wine.

Also, I had my child with me and didn’t want to eat alcohol in front of him in the middle of the day.

Read more: Tips for traveling with kids

Packaged pies sold at a country flea market.
Photo by Sara Melissa Frost

The boozy pies, I was told, are a version of a grown-up whoopie pie, a local specialty, with liquor, beer or wine in the filling. Everything from vodka to rum. Apparently, they are a popular party treat in the area.

Homemade, with love

This vendor is the neighbor to the stand with the flags and knives.

The women took great pride in selling their homemade products. They were smiling and having a good time, interacting with each other as well as the customers. I couldn’t quite relax knowing the other vendor were selling knives on a table in the open just a few feet away.

Women in plain dress selling homemade products at a flea market.
Photo by Sara Melissa Frost

Seeing this stand was a nice contrast to the mass-produced desserts you find in grocery stores. I got the impression that everything they sold was truly made with love.

They were creating what looked like the most delicious baked goods with seasonal fruits and probably lots of sugar. It looked like they loved their lifestyle. That in itself was refreshing to see.

Too many dresses

Seeing this made me a little sad. There’s so much. Feels like too much. It’s the typical cheap dress — lasts a season if you’re lucky and then it ends up in the dump. The owner hadn’t even packed up all his stuff and by the time we left the tables were filled with clothes as well.

A great number of dresses sold at a flea market.
Photo by Sara Melissa Frost

Fast fashion is a legit problem, and it is for sure taking a toll on our environment. I’ve written about this earlier; the volume of clothing Americans throw away each year has doubled in the last 20 years from 7 million to 14 million tons.

Why? Retailers produce inexpensive clothing that’s not made to last. It is all about meeting the high demands of the latest trends and people feel they need to keep up. Textile production requires significant amounts of chemicals, water, energy, and other natural resources. And get this; according to the World Resources Institute, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt. In other words, not sustainable.

Although this was a flea market with plenty of antiques and second-hand items, the dresses were brand new. Not quite a fan of the style itself with the all the patterns and flowers, but I am sure the dresses will end up being sold, one after one, because there’s a “need” for them.

Oh, the contrasts…

Exploring places like inspires me but also there’s a sense of hopelessness to it. With all the polarization in this country and then seeing people profiting from it all — it just feels so unnecessary.

Seeing the women selling old-fashion root beer and fresh strawberry pies were the perfect contrast to it. As one who loves anything homemade, their sweet stand put a smile on my face. You would never find country markets like this in Norway, and perhaps that’s why I find it so interesting.

It shows both good and bad sides to the United States, all in one place.