Behind the dark bug-eye sunglasses lurked a face, young or old, I don’t know. But there was a deep world-weary sigh every time she heard the price of a lamp or a pan or a book at the yard sale.
It was if life itself had betrayed her once more. “How? How? How could this lamp I so desire be $15?” her sigh seemed to say.
“Would you take seven?” is what she actually said.
And so it went, up and down the rows of our possessions as this stylishly dressed woman diminished their value, one by one, in a tenacious search for cut-rate prices. Never mind that we had already diminished their value, both emotionally and financially, as we sought to empty the house in advance of our move to Belize.
Usually she put the item back when I would not yield. On some things I caved to her absurd bid as these things were already dead to me. I mostly wanted them gone with a minimum of badgering, bantering and negotiating … but maybe with enough of a return to hang on to some dignity.
And I think I was having it a lot easier than Rose. After all, it was mostly her life sprawled across the driveway. I had my own Craigslist-infused “yard sale” before moving up from San Diego. That was a no-brainer. My furniture was (and I think I’ve said it before) Divorced Single-Guy Second-hand Primitive. Rose, as anyone will tell you, has ridiculously good taste and had lots and lots of high-end furniture, clothing, art, jewelry, crystal and the like. I say high-end but enormously comfortable and comfortably lived in, too.
When a person puts that much effort into their home, just imagine the emotional currents that must run beneath as strangers tell you over and over that your bargain prices just aren’t low enough.
I take heart in one fact: The material goods are being devalued, yes, but the stuff that really matters, the friends and family, still priceless. You should see Rose’s calendar. Every day there is a get-together, a coffee date, a luncheon, a dinner, a girls’ night …. all so they can show Rose how much they love her.
And sometimes she brings me home a wrapped plate of desserts or leftovers. (No, seriously, I’m actually included in some of these farewell events – not the tearful girls’ nights and teas , mind you.)
My first feeling was a twinge of guilt: Am I really taking her away from this incredible community of friends? The twinge morphed into an enormous appreciation for the bravery that it takes to decide to leave all this behind for an uncertain adventure in a foreign land. With me, of all people.
So here we are on two sunny, summery Northern California days – a lot sunnier and summeryer than Belize right now, might I interject – taking that necessary but still-painful step of divesting of a three-bay garage-full of “stuff.”
Mind you, it hasn’t all been heartbreak. Some really nice and interesting people stopped by and talked, shared stories and even bought lots of stuff, or sometimes just a little. It really didn’t matter.
We also had some incredible assists from garage sale-hardened veterans and diehard friends Anna, Robin, Jen, Julie and Lorraine – who together should write the book on the mastery of power-yard selling/buying. They gave advice on pricing, organizing, display, marketing, advertising, differentiating between real gold and silver and costume jewelry – brilliant stuff learned in the weekend trenches. A sampler: “Start your sale on Friday. You’ll get the moms after they drop their kids off at school.”
On the night between the two sell-off days, the local women who attended our wedding in Mexico threw a reunion party with Belizean flags, chocolates and cuisine. Later, a handful of her girlfriends retired to Rose’s nearly empty Pilates studio to go through racks of her clothes – some elegant, some costumey from her dancing days, some stylish, some practical. Mostly they laughed and encouraged one another and shared memories inspired by a particular coat, a dress, a scarf.
Me, I spent part of the evening at my neighbor Mark’s house. His living room consists of a carnival basketball game, a foosball table, a pool table (I think) and two rows of black-leather loungers facing a giant home theater screen. His two young sons? Probably will be a tad disappointed when they discover what the real heaven is all about.
Even more amazing, Mark has a full-keg tap which currently features Stone Brewing’s Arrogant Bastard Ale (Motto on the bottles: “You’re not worthy.”) I discovered this because Mark spotted my Arrogant Bastard T-shirt in the Men’s Finer Clothing section of the garage sale.
Of course I insisted that he accept the shirt as a gift. I knew he was a really nice guy and a great dad and husband — but a fan of one of the greatest craft beers ever produced in San Diego County? The things you learn as a short-timer.
Right now, I’m sitting inside the garage staring at the remains of the sale.
It isn’t an awful lot, thanks in part to the timely arrival of a lovely lady who founded a non-profit which helps kids learn about working in the real world through training and hands-on employment in a frozen yogurt shop. We filled her van with as much as we could for their own fundraiser.
The rest will go to a non-profit that provides badly needed social services here in the community. Some of Rose’s dresses and shoes went to a group that provides prom dresses for disadvantaged young women.
I keep glancing over at my beloved 1981 Trek Antelope 820, modified with urban tires, and wonder why it didn’t sell. Clearly a sign from God that I should keep it and ship it down to Belize …. But why didn’t He send me the same sign before I sold my kayak? God, you can be so confusing.
Well, soon enough, the house will be empty and put up for rent and we will be camping out with friends here and there for a few days before flying to Belize.
The little lady thrift huntress with the big sunglasses and the weary sigh? She bought a few things, including an outdoor George Foreman grill that I refused to cave in on from the $10 price tag. (Now that’s stand your ground, Florida…)
I helped carry her stuff out to her car – a gleaming white brand-new Cadillac Escalade.