We All Survived The Garage Sale ... Even the Baby

>> Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Few things in our family are more fraught with peril than a family that garage-sales together. 

First of all, the "family" consists of three under three.  While the indeterminate number of lumps of teenage hormones are helpful or not, agressive, or not, as they see fit, from year to year, at least they know how to "sound off," are not likely to wander into traffic, and will (mostly) respond when you yell their names.  The under three crowd scores very low in all of these crucial skills.  

Then, on top of our family composition being less-than-ideal for haggling and large gatherings of people, we must consider the unique challenges of the so-called "garage sale."  Let's dispense with the stupid jokes early.  No garages were sold, nor were any yards.  Every year we try, and every year we fail to sell those things.  Perhaps the problem is that we do not hold the "garage sale" or "yard sale" in either the garage or the yard.  We hold it in the driveway so no one steals the non-sale items or ruins the grass.  We have dogs and small children to ruin the grass, so we don't need the help of potential customers.

Okay, now that we have that out of our systems, let's get back to the story.

Technically, the town had multiple "neighborhood" yard sales going on, with folks setting up in their own yards/driveways/garages at the times designated by their neighborhood.  The neighborhood where my mother lives was supposed to start at 8 AM.  The neighborhood where my sister lives was supposed to start at 7 AM.  Of course, we all knew that the early bird shoppers would be prowling the streets by 6:30 AM at the very latest.  One year someone in the neighborhood was organized enough to publish a list of who was selling what sorts of things, and I'll be darned if someone wasn't knocking on our garage door before 7 in the hopes of picking up something we'd advertised. 

This year, we were more prepared than usual.  We actually had a critical mass of "sale crap" unboxed and on tables before midnight, just waiting to be pulled out and sold in the morning.  Now, none of it had a sale price on it, but hey, at least it was out.  The only decision left to be made was ... who had to get up and go deal with the insane buyers at the sale, and who had to stay home long enough to herd the mass of children out of the house and over to the sale.  Neither job had anyone jumping up for volunteers.

I ended up being one of the ones on the "herd the children" brigade.  As it turns out, both jobs began at 5:30 AM, when two of the four under-threes tried to get up.  Someone promptly sent them back to bed where they dozed for awhile and then an hour later got up and began "whispering" to each other.  After a few moments of this "whispering" I sent them downstairs to bother the television set instead of the other kids.

By about 8:30, I think (who was looking at the clock?) I arrived at the sale in a borrowed minivan carrying an army of children.  Actually, come to think of it, the word, "circus" would fit better.  Yes.  We were a travelling circus.  By 8:45, give or take, we were entertaining offers on selling the little beasts - er - offspring.  The younger the child, the cheaper the price.  By 10 ... or so ... my sister and I snuck off to go troll sales, conveniently leaving all of our children behind with other relatives. 

After nearly 20 years of these sales, I do not understand what people will buy, or why people will charge what they will charge.  I might think I have the most wonderful thing, and I can't give it away, while the neighbors are selling broken bookshelves for $50 each. 

I have concluded that there is some sort of "garage sale bug" that goes around that makes people do strange thigs, and I am far better off not trying to figure it out.  I nearly bought a table to redecorate a room my son is still living in, for the benefit of another child I may never have.  My excuse?  It was cute, and it was only a dollar.  I nearly overlooked the fact that it seemed stained beyond repair, and the foot was missing so it would be forever crooked.  Thankfully, I came to my senses and moved on.  I managed to only spend $1.60 the whole day and I accumulated a book and a jacket for my kid and a present for someone else.

Meanwhile, back at "our" sale, things were moving along swimmingly.  This year no one brought anything that had been a Christmas gift from anyone else at the sale, so no one's feelings got hurt.  I'm pretty sure my sister swiped a bunch of my sale items frm the table and took them home with her, but that's okay with me.  It's about getting it out of the house, not about making money.  Now, if she tries to send it back to me in the next hand-me-down box between our kids, then I will get upset.  No one should have to discard the same item twice.  Really.  That's unfair ... especially when you come from a family of packrats, and selling anything even once sometimes requires therapy.

Of course, in the days following the sale, we have to ask ourselves a few questions.  Was it worth it?  Yes.  Will we do it again next year?  Well, probably, once we forget what it felt like to get up at 5 AM, to feed all the children outside because some of them are allergic to the dog, all of them are filthy from playing, and none of them will cooperate in taking a nap in the tent we brought for them.

It all comes down to how much therapy we need to part with our things we don't need, and how fast we can forget how painful those early morning hours can be.


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