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Friday, July 16, 2010

Garage Sales, Yard Sales and other roads paved with good intentions

Part One of Two

I have conducted and attended my fair share of Garage Sales in the past 13 years. I happen to live in a town which has a specific Garage Sale season; strict laws, fees, and fines about posting signage for these events, a distinct neighborhood known as the “Estate Section” where the pickings can be plentiful, and a town paper which reminds it’s anxious readers, that the season will soon be upon us. As Oscar remarked so poignantly from his garbage can on Sesame Street, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, now gettouta here.”

These events are particularly attractive to mothers of young children who come to realize that The Cat in the Hat and Goodnight Moon and other essential staples of your child's first library, work just as well in the $1.00 slightly dog-eared, still hardcover garage-sale edition, as in the $15.95 Barnes & Noble version. One weekend I even nabbed three still-best-selling Harry Potter hardcover like-brand-new editions for $1 a piece. Score!

At a tender age, my son when through an unfortunately serious books-that-make-noise phase; letter sounds, animals sounds, character voices, random buzzes and beeps -- and being the attentive mother that I am, I went out and bought at least 25 of these classics at $16.95 a pop. As he pressed the buttons, my heart burst --"Look, he likes to read!"

Three years later when my son realized he could make all of these noises and more himself, they flew off my driveway on the hottest Saturday, in the history of the world --- all 25 in one shot for $25. Books are easily the best and simplest booty from these events, if you are a reader or hoping to grow one.

Then there is the wide wide world of riding toys. I would wager that at any given time, the average child between the ages of 2 and 10 owns at least a dozen. They might begin with a well-intentioned gift of the for-indoor-use-only, wooden-wheeled, faux-fur covered, stuffed and expensive -- from FAO Schwarz* or some upscale toy catalog that seems to get your mailing address out of nowhere -- type; or perhaps the cuddly but itchy polyester, Toys R Us, chain-store version, usually in garish pink or purple and possessing a unfortunate single long horn on it's head. Then there are the made for outdoor, molded hard-rubber, horn-tooting, it's-ok-if-it-rusts, leave-out-in-the-rain-or-sandbox models.

* This is the proper spelling, not FAO Schwartz. As my mother kept reminding me, "Stop making them Jewish!" She being the official arbiter of all things Jewish and not.

I would be remiss if I neglected to include the classic reproduction from a parent's very own childhood including the archetypal little red wagon, those gender-hued tricycles with strands of plastic streamers at the ends of the handle-bars and the little metal thumb-operated bell fastened with two screws that never fit right and was always upside down when you needed it, the iconic Flexible Flyer, the indestructible plastic snow saucer and it's antithesis -- the elegant wooden toboggan with green and white striped L.L. Bean cushions, the miniature two-wheel training bicycles with those wobbly removable wheels that never balanced, the bigger kid two-wheelers with the banana seat and clattering, faded baseball cards attached to the spokes with clothes pins, assorted skateboards, scooters, and the really version big ticket reproductions of various adult leisure and war-time vehicles that had mind-deafening electric motors, which propelled them up to about 2 miles per hour. So much noise, for so little momentum! These too, are often available for the first comers at these events.

When I was a new mother, there was a time when it struck me that my darling husband actually approved of, encouraged and was rather proud of my Garage Sale prowess. I would sit with the town paper on a Friday night, pull out a local map and plan the excursion stop by stop. I would star the ads with the most potential based on some non-scientific formula involving the advertising copy, the address of the sale, and my own non-sensical notion of material deficiencies that week. I would deliberately and carefully plot out the optimal route. There was a very crazy method to my madness.

Getting up early on Saturday mornings, (some place permitted "early birds" as early as 7 a.m.! ) I would buy myself a huge cupacoffee, place my unfolded map and my starred-with-magic-marker newspaper on the front seat next to me and jettison myself into a Garage-Sale-Shopping frenzy!

I got to know, at least by face, a whole stratum of like-minded souls who subsisted on this most competitive of shopping sports. Within three minutes of my arrival, I could size up any sale and even size up my shopping competition for the morning. Sometimes it took only a drive by, I was that good.

I was home by 11 a.m. on most days -- worn out and happy. For the uninitiated or retail-insistent, who deem these events as other-peoples-trash, I say, "Thank You!"

Keep away and leave the goodies to the self-actualized professionals and young mothers in need.

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