Garage sales can be an interesting pastime. Indeed, my mother certainly thought so. By the 1970’s and 1980’s, she was already an avid garage sale fanatic, seeking out sales every weekend. When we found a “This car brakes for garage sales” bumper sticker, it was quickly bought for my mother. She proudly stuck it to the back bumper of her yellow station wagon, a fair warning to all surrounding cars.
Each weekend began well in advance of Saturday with the careful preparation of a plan. As there was no internet at the time, my mother looked through the newspaper ads. With a knowledge of the local neighborhoods and streets, she made a list of those sales that we would visit according to order and proximity to our home. She was familiar enough with the wording of such ads that she could easily choose those garage sales that would provide us with the best chance of finding good “stuff.” My mother was, if anything, efficient and deadly serious in our garage sale-ing.
As my brother and I grew older, we became her assistants during these circuits. We learned about Carnival glass and sterling silver, eventually being able to identify some of these precious items. Any items of question were quietly handed to her for proper identification and possible rejection if they were reproductions. Over the years, we were able to find quality items even as we learned frugality.
This frugality benefited our family during my early years in one unusual way. I was often ill as a child and had to visit the doctor regularly. My pediatrician and my mother struck a deal at some point. She purchased any sterling silver that she found at garage sales and traded it with my doctor for my medical care. This went on for quite awhile and allowed me to receive the medical care that I needed.
My mother’s love of garage sales also taught us much about people. One disturbing incident when I was young was the sight of a woman running toward the road as we approached yet another garage sale. She was the owner of the home and screamed that a woman had just stolen an item from her. My mother asked for a description of the thief; she correctly identified the person and told the victim that the perpetrator was a local dealer known for stealing stuff from garage sales. The woman, still furious, eventually realized that she would have to resign herself to the theft.
Another more humorous experience occurred when I was a bit younger. We entered a home where a sale was being held inside. I knew this house was “different” than ours, but I didn’t know why. The house was generally decorated in black and white with animal prints everywhere you looked. The woman appeared from a side door. She was a large woman with curly, dyed red hair; she was dressed in an animal print caftan and was barefoot. I began to grow uncomfortable even though was no obvious reason. This feeling only grew when the man entered; he was also dressed in an animal print caftan, with large, gold chains and a perm. We certainly saw a lot of life during those weekends with my mom.
Although I have grown older, I still look eagerly for garage sales. My mother taught me much during those weekend jaunts, things that were valuable in my later years. Perhaps the fondness for those home-based sales goes beyond practicality, though. They remind me of my mother and her station wagon always ready to pull over for a good bargain.