Yard Sale Endings and New Beginnings

I should have promised myself that it would be my last. We don’t identify endings for ourselves very often, so there’s no telling how many curtain calls we miss. Instead, we recycle sorry scenes from our middles. The proverbial “fat lady singing” begins only after we’ve ducked out the stage door — maybe for some fresh air or a quick smoke. The oncoming truck doesn’t slow enough to see the difference.
One can get quite philosophical, lounging on your front porch for an entire Saturday afternoon. Hosting a yard sale is thankless work.
The ad in the newspaper was listed under Garage Sales, but most on my block don’t have garages, including me. It was certainly not an Estate Sale. Nobody had died. Estates are like eulogies — what looks like just a large mess (a house, a life) gets organized into something valuable, but only after you can’t take credit for any of it.
It was not a Help Us Make Rent Sale, which pop up in surprising neighborhoods the end of each month. And it wasn’t one of those I’m Lonely for Human Interaction and Pardon the Cat Hair on the Trinkets Sale. It was not a Moving Sale, and not even a Moving On Sale. Nobody was breaking up and ridding their viewscape of reminders of some particular past.
It was a Lighten the Load Sale, a Share the Bounty Sale, a Pilgrim’s Progress Sale. But traipsing around with directional signs and a staple gun just after dawn, it felt like an I’m Getting Too Old For This Sale.
We opened at 8 AM and several cars swooped in within the first few minutes. These synchronized salers had plotted their morning, measuring locations and start times to cover the most sales in the shortest distance. Most drove pick up trucks. Some didn’t even stop their engines as they surveyed my wares.
Good thing I wasn’t looking for conversation.
Books were the first to go, especially those that never had been read. Ebay resellers, no doubt. Nobody buys both “What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School” and “Conversations With God” for their own reading pleasure. I’m glad folks have learned to do this, and if it keeps them from having to host yard sales to make rent, I’m glad for them.
(I bought a book once at Smith Family that I considered a real find. When I got home, I opened the cover and read my name on the inside. I’d forgotten I’d ever owned it. I’m so Oregonian, I can recycle myself.)
The pace soon slowed. Familiar neighborhood faces stopped and inquired why I owned a fog machine, and for the first time I learned their names. An old friend came by, just to sit and chat. I had a nervous moment, worried that I might be selling items I had once bought from people I know. Or worse, a gift long separated from its giver, at risk of being unintentionally reunited. False alarm.
By lunchtime, things were so slow I feared I might start sounding like the cat woman in the house dress with a full set of “I Wuv You This Much” figurines. I tried to read a magazine, but nonchalance is hard to project when your hot air popcorn popper is going for 50 cents.
“We could just end things early,” my son suggested. He knows stir crazy when he sees it.
“My word is my bond,” I muttered, barely able to hear myself.
But the final hour was better. Some people came back, haunted that somebody else might have claimed that pond liner or the electric screwdriver. The threadbare “Star Wars” sheet set was no longer hidden under a larger pile and got snapped up by a college student who couldn’t believe his luck.
At 3 PM, the remainders were being boxed up for St. Vincent de Paul, Goodwill, NextStep, and Smith Family Bookstore. I could have done that on Friday and skipped all this. Was half a Saturday worth $76.75? I’m not sure.
The gleam in that college kid’s eye was almost worth an Oregon summer Saturday. I’m glad those Star Wars sheets found a good home.
Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a weekly column for The Register-Guard and blogs.