Posted by: rocketbride | May 20, 2017

Church yard sale


Woody and the rest of the toys had a good grasp on the existential horror of the yard sale. On the one hand, you want to get rid of the stuff that’s holding you back. On the other…my stuff!

I always come home from a church sale with a few dumb things. Usually it’s books: I can use my classroom library to excuse a multitude of impulse purchases. Maggie always wants some toy, just as her brothers did. Blake has aged out of most of the yard sale charms (this is a kid who once begged me for $5 so he could buy a VHS set of Back to the Future movies from out neighbours across the road), but he did fall in love with a sugar bowl and creamer set that look like ducks. I took home a plastic witch cauldron, because Macbeth and also I don’t have to answer to you! There are also baked goods to trap the unwary.

This year was extra upsetting because my grandparents’ flotsam were on most of the tables. I was helping the set up last night, and I rather aggressively “repossessed” a few things for myself: a 45 box with a dozen of the best 45s, a few LPs, my grandmother’s ceramic mixing bowls. Most of the family has had opportunities to go get mementos at this point, and I think my mom is right to let most of it go into the world (even if that means the dumpster) instead of hoarding it, but that doesn’t mean that I was spared a pang seeing the box with the glass Loch Ness Monster figurine, or four pen-and-ink pictures from a long-ago trip to Quebec. Sometimes I would recognize something and blurt it out, at which point the tender-hearted older ladies gave it to me immediately, no questions asked. I ended up throwing a bunch of cash into the kitty as a way of apologizing for my family’s caprice, and for my sudden onset sentimentality.

I was particularly struck by two things. There were personalized mugs, which made me comment on my grandparents to whoever was around setting up last night. One of the ladies heard the names and fetched a silver anniversary tray, which I immediately recognized as my mom’s half-hearted late attempt at an anniversary present. Their 25th anniversary was in 1982, and I remember going to the mall to pick something out with my less than enthused mother. “She’s upset that we didn’t do anything,” my mom explained at the time, my mother’s indifference to her mother’s second marriage palpable. I was a year older than Maggie is now.

This morning I was idly perusing the picture frames when I muttered, “that’s my brother…and that’s my cousin.” Sure enough, two tiny pictures of the younger avatars of my family beamed out from tiny frames I remember from the tv/figurine cabinet. The ladies handed them over, of course, and they’re currently safe on my piano, along with a few loose prints of the family that had migrated to the bottom of a packing box. Something about those tiny beaming faces seeking their destiny among strangers gave me an ugly turn.

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I know that I need to give up these silly attachments. I know that the more I accumulate, the more uselessly complex my life becomes. But I’m helpless in the face of these cravings. Maybe it’s because I dream of long-gone family houses almost every night that I cling to their debris when I wake up.

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