It was a walk down memory lane. Old clothes, tools, books, records (remember A Taste of Honey? The Ray Conniff Singers?), and many many coffee makers and spatulas. Towels, sheets and blankets from the lake house... colorful margarita glasses and a bright yellow end table and random remotes and big-ass phones with cords... and a plastic Budweiser Beer sign that my dad insisted on pricing at $35 (no, it didn't sell). And I found my "letter jacket" from high school marching band, which of course no longer fits but which I of course did not sell. And I found a Senior Scholastic Magazine from December 1969. The back page had an ad for Royal Typewriters - "Ask mom and dad to get one for you! You will get better grades and - groovy! - it has a transistor radio in its case!" One article wondered about what was ahead in the 1970s - did you know that computers were big machines that could solve hard problems very fast? Maybe someday, every college will have one on its campus!
I arrived late Thursday and apparently had missed the most exciting and slightly tense part of the pre-sale process - the negotiation among family members about how to price the various items. Of course, Mom and Dad had the last word, but each person had their opinions based on emotional attachment to the thing or to vast experience with other garage sales. Not surprisingly, given my push-over personality, once the sale started I was tempted to let people pay whatever they wanted. Fortunately, we had rules - no price cuts until after noon. When my Dad's back was turned, however, I often charged only a dime, instead of a quarter, for a flower vase or mug.
Did I mention that it was about 50 degrees? A windy 50 that led me to root through my parents' drawers and closet for socks and coats.
Each visitor seemed to be on a mission. We had many requests for military stuff - uniforms, documents, guns, knives - and for stamps, coins, and jewelry. We did have several small baggies filled with costume jewelry - miscellaneous necklaces and earrings from across the decades. We found some pretty cool big clunky earrings from the 1980s, as well as some novelty items. Somehow, no matter how many times we tucked them into bags with other pieces, the blinking Santa Claus earrings ended up alone on the table, tucked under some place mats or tea towels. And my mother parted with her collection of crystal salt cellars, one by one, many with its own tiny spoon.
Many people had stories to tell - one man bought a coffee maker for his son who could not find a replacement carafe to fit his fancy coffee maker; another bought a bin of chunky chalk for his grandchildren and talked about how they love to draw on his sidewalk when they visit. Several families with only one English-speaking member came and bought toys and household goods. It felt very good to be passing things that we no longer used on to others who needed them. Sustainability - recycling and reusing.
My brother and sisters and I had many conversations about "stuff." We all, to varying degrees acknowledged that we had way too much stuff, and after being surrounded by stuff for two days, we pledged to go clean out our own attics and closets.
Stuff and stuff. Last Thursday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an article Lessons from the Amish. Tim Grant, the author, described how the Amish have easily weathered the economic recession that has plagued the nation. In Amish communities, people live below their means. Imagine that - below their means. What a sense of freedom that would bring - freedom and energy that can be devoted to more important things.
On my way home, I had a minor car accident (well, I drove over a curb at a gas station in Flatwoods, West Virginia and three kind men lifted the car back onto the road). I bent something - I noticed immediately that the steering was off - and yet, like a fool, I drove the remaining two hours home, 45 miles an hour, flashers flashing. Steve's nephew, Donny, owns a body shop and is taking care of things - he did tell me that I should NOT have driven the car home, but I did make it. So I am without a car for several days and get to ride the bus again. And then. My furnace isn't working - so we are a bit chilly. I plan to sleep in Steve's red WYEP sweatshirt tonight 'cause it has a big hood.
But as I used to tell my kids when they were young (and a little whiny about not getting what they wanted) - "Yes, we are rich. Absolutely. We have a roof over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear, and FAMILY! We are RICH IN LOVE!" They would roll their eyes - but I know they got it.