Saturday, July 24, 2010
I probably inherited my love for garage sales from my mother, who surely ranked as the queen of the art during her younger days. “Let’s just go see what they have,” she’d say, the gleam of cheap acquisition in her eyes. “I’m not going to buy anything – goodness knows, there isn’t anything I need. I just want to look.”
With that, we’d set out, only to return hours later with all sorts of things we certainly didn’t need but couldn’t resist anyway – it was such a deal!
She -- and my father, too, who eventually got into the spirit of the thing – later refined the art to a science when they were snowbirds in Palm Springs. Nothing is more fun than going to the yard sales of the rich and famous -- and if you think rich people don’t love to make a few bucks as much as anyone else you can think again. I used to laugh that their four-month sojourns to sunny Southern California were really nothing more than buying trips – they’d hit the Palm Springs garage sales, haul the loot back to their native North Dakota home and then sell off the treasures at garage sales. After all, who could resist a flower vase that Red Skelton had once owned? A velvet hat with feathers that had been worn to the Oscars? A brooch Doris Day once owned? Whether any of it was true was another question, of course – we’re talking Southern California, where imagination reigns supreme. It might have been true, and that was close enough for everyone involved.
I had my own first garage sale when I was in college, selling off stuff in front of the Alpha Phi house. A few of my sorority sisters thought I was nuts – until they saw how nice it was to get rid of that skirt that never fit or the shoes that pinched, and pick up a few quarters in exchange. Little by little, several of them decided to join me and then the sales became a social event as much as anything else.
Of course calling these things “garage sales” is usually a euphemism, since I haven’t always had a garage. Although one time in Sacramento, I literally did sell the garage, not to mention the house. I’d bought a new home and was getting rid of stuff prior to the move. My old house was for sale, and the people who eventually bought it saw it first the day of the garage sale.
Much of the fun is the social aspect. Selling stuff in the front yard is unbeatable in terms of meeting the neighbors, but even more fun when a bunch of friends do it together. Maybe the best sales I ever had were in Monterey, when my friends Theresa and Mary Alice and I would band together and have what we called “Pack Rat” sales – they lasted all day, and we made hundreds of dollars each. We all had our dogs there, and one year, my garden was really overproducing, and I sold fresh zucchini, carrots and cabbage right along with the old books. When one lady lamented that she’d buy my zucchini if only she knew how to make it into bread, I went to my freezer, took out a loaf of my own zucchini bread, and sold her that, too, then gave her the recipe. There’s no limit to what you can sell.
My first Israeli garage sale was last Friday morning, and it was a blast. This time “garage sale” was pure fiction, since not only was there no garage, but also about 80% of the stuff wasn’t for sale at all, it was free. I have to move in a couple of weeks, and there were a lot of things I won’t have room for – or don’t need -- so I decided that since the primary objective was to simply get rid of stuff, I had two choices: I could haul it all out to the dumpster, and it would disappear in a heartbeat. Or I could make a social event out of it, put it all out, and invite my friends on the local email list, Anglobeersheba, to come and help themselves. That’s what I decided to do – one last hurrah at this house.
I did have a few bigger things for sale, but most of it was just freebies – which made it so much easier. Every other time I’ve hosted a garage sale, I’ve insisted that every item have a price on it, which takes an awful lot of time. With most everything free, I didn't have to do that.
The first people to come arrived just before the scheduled starting time of 8 am – they set the standard for the day. One of the things I was selling was my beloved Cocker Spaniel Guinness’ aliyah dog cage, the airline-approved crate where he spent the long hours in the belly of the airplane on the way to Israel. Since I have no plans whatever for making a return trip – at least with my dogs – there was no need to keep the big cage anymore.
It made my day that Guinness’ cage went to a new puppy -- “Tia” -- recently adopted from the “Beersheba Loves Animals” folks. “Tia’s” new human mom is in a wheelchair, and Tia is being trained as a service dog. Sometimes the puppy needs a safe place of her own to get some rest, and the airline crate was perfect. I was so delighted that the cage went for such a fine purpose and to such wonderful people. They also claimed some extra dog toys, eating bowls and other doggie accessories. Made my day!
My old bike – which I won’t have a safe place to keep – went to a second-year medical student at BGU, who recently had her bike stolen. Good deal! We were both happy with that exchange.
Other odds and ends: a whole bunch of extra cups and mugs (what do they do? Reproduce, when they get shoved into the back of the cupboard?) were claimed by a family where I’m frequently a Shabbat lunch guest. What could be more perfect than that?
That friend also claimed a black “Princess” telephone that had a great history: Many years before I made aliyah, I bought the phone from a ‘Dollar Store’ in California – that’s right. I paid $1.00 for it. I used it for several years, then, in a ‘Why not?’ moment, decided to take it with me on aliyah – and it worked perfectly here. But when my daughter bought a new phone system for her house, she shipped me her old cordless phone system, so I replaced the venerable black handset with her castoff cordless ones, which I’m still using. But the old black phone still worked perfectly – now someone else can use it for a few years.
A young man I hadn’t known before walked off with two bags full of ‘maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t’ cameras, electronic odds and ends and photographic equipment. I only need one working camera at a time – who has room to store more? He was giggling with delight.
The people who found books and tapes they wanted were the best – what fun to pass on good reading material to someone else.
And then of course there were the friends who came to help me – one family arrived, found a few things they could use, but then also carted off some of my plants I won’t be able to take. That was the ultimate mitzvah – throwing away growing plants is much more painful than throwing away other things. Their act of kindness meant a lot. And then there was the really good buddy who just came to help and keep me company all day – wow! A gift of time like that -- What great friends!
Nor can we forget the man who arrived with information – not that he intended to educate, probably, but as we were talking, I complained that as much as I like watermelon (watermelon in Israel is unbelievable, for you guys still in galut) I never have room in the fridge for it. So I rarely buy it, even though vendors drive around the neighborhoods with trucks, their loudspeakers barking, ‘Amatia! Amatia!’ selling the just-picked luscious things, two for NIS 10. “Why don’t you cube it and then put it in the fridge,” this genius suggested – DUH. How could I have not thought of that?
Then he went on to say that he’d seen an amazing way to cube watermelon: cut a slice off the top and bottom, stand it on end, then slice the rind off in strips, top to bottom, until you have a barrel-like piece of pure watermelon left. Then just make a few crosswise cuts to cube it perfectly. Wow! This afternoon I’m buying watermelon!
Nor was that all – he also told how he’d seen someone buttering hot corn on the cob: what you do is butter a piece of bread, then rub the hot corn on the bread, buttering it in the process – plus you can eat the bread! (Needless to say, corn is also on my shopping list.)
Amazing the things one learns at garage sales.
So for everyone who came, for everyone who helped me unload, thank you so much. It was fun – and you can be sure I’ll be doing it again.