Friday, July 16, 2010

Divine Tales of the Yard Sale Sisterhood

It was a sweet, pristine neighborhood--generous front porches with white wicker rocking chairs, Dogwood trees, and sidewalks. You could call it a nice neighborhood. But that day, our behavior--two nice, thirty-something sisters out for a morning of treasure hunting--definitely didn't fit into that neighborhood. You see, without our knowledge, we had turned into the Thelma and Louise of yard sales.

The turning point came on the generous front porch of a Hansel and Gretal gingerbread Victorian home. Cute stuff. Good prices. Pleasant people. My sis and I ooo'd and ahhh'd over a set of aging wine glasses and a stack of tattered quilts. The fresh white porch creaked with age as the shoppers all browsed and politely made their claims. We got caught up in the quaintness and the "road show" antiqueness of it all. We were so busy shopping, we eventually separated and lost track of each other. After paying for my loot I met Sis back at her maroon Toyota parked on the street. She hadn't locked the doors, so I just climbed in, adjusting my fanny pack full of yard sale small bills and change. The fanny pack, as embarrassingly unfigure-flattering as it is, serves as an important tool for the yard sale sisters--it leaves your hands free and keeps cash at the ready if you get into a competitive situation. Like say, you see a stuffed pig with a shovel and you HAVE to have it for your sunporch--one hand grabs it two seconds ahead of the lady in the moo-moo while the other hand has already dug out your two quarters to pay. Trust me, I've seen a knock-down, drag-out over a $2 diaper bag in my own front yard.
That morning, Sis and I had met for an early-bird breakfast where we checked the newspaper and circled the best sales; then we hit the road and that's how we ended up on Primrose Avenue, at one of the most brimming bargain porches of the morning. As I headed back to the car with my treasures, I overheard the homeowner offer to take another lady's purchases to her car for her. "So nice!" I thought. The lady just continued to stand there, chatting with his wife as she told him, "Just take it to the red car on the curb." She sounded like she was ordering her butler around.
I got in my sister's car, and buckled my seat belt at about the same time she was finding her keys. As she slowly pulled away from the curb, she glanced back to see what my goodies were. "Oooh," I remember her saying, "I love that painting."
I looked back to see what she was referring to because I hadn't bought a painting, unless I was having one of those senior moments at age 37 and had instantly forgot everything I had purchased. But there it was, a pretty painting of a Victorian woman taking a walk in the wilderness. "That is pretty," I said. "And wow, you bought a bird feeder," I added. "I thought you didn't want to bother feeding your wildlife."
"What?" my sister said.
And that's when it hit us. As her maroon car pulled onto the busy street of yard-salers, we realized that there was a bunch of stuff in the backseat that we had never seen before. Then the curious desperation of people who have to go around from yard to yard buying second-hand stuff and still bartering down those rock-bottom prices took over our laid-back middle class sense of well-being.
I yelled, "STEP ON IT!"
She yelled, "What have we done! Oh my God!" with part hysterical laughter and part complete puzzlement.
Did we steal stuff? How had this happened? It took us the rest of the day before it finally came back to me, that one of the homeowners had taken some lady's stuff to her car, but he took it to ours. By then all the yard sales had closed down and all the Victorian gingerbread homes suddenly looked alike.
Another time, there was a sale by grown kids of a lady who had passed away only a week before. They were holding the sale, right there at her house. They seemed disorganized and confused about where to put things and how to price things. In all the confusion, Sis and I wandered into the actual house--usually a no-no at yard sales. Then we stopped in our tracks. Shocked. You could see a makeshift bed was actually set up next to the food pantry and the kitchen where it appeared the lady had made her home for quite some time, in a little corner; it was as if she had been living off of canned food and lemon-lime soda from what we could tell. We both started crying just as her son walked in and shoo'd us out of the house. We were so embarrassed at our mistake! We apologized--our bad. I bought a whole box of sewing notions and spools of ribbons. I thought, once upon a time, that lady had mended her son's shirt and sewed her daughter a little dress. There's a good place in heaven for people who sew.

So, here we are, more than ten years later. I don't think I have the patience I used to for yard sales on a hot day. I don't even like to have yard sales--I have a flea market booth. I do believe in the concept of yard sales, flea markets, and simply donating things--we don't want to be hoarders (or end up on that show) or turn rooms of our homes into storage facilities. We all think we need more stuff than we actually need. But everyone needs to regularly edit--edit their stuff. Not to worry though. The Yard Sale Sisterhood will reign again. We'll have an early breakfast, grab some coffee, circle the sales and go for an adventure (but no more fanny packs...maybe). And I promise, if we find strange loot in the backseat, we'll turn right around and take it back, to someone, somewhere. We won't drive off a cliff. Karma, you know.

Eat, write, dream and stitch something this summer.

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