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Volume 37 Issue 10 • June 28-July 4, 2007 now in our 37th season

Saturday Morning Treasures

by Robert P. Barsanti

On Saturday morning we weighed anchor, slipped the dock and hoisted the yard sale.  The boys and I go “sale-ing” most Saturdays in the spring and summer in search of toys and oddities.  As soon as they finish their donuts and find a car or truck that will fill the fleet, then we call it a day.  Several years ago, we reached the apex of yard sale-ing when we bought a battery powered Jeff Gordon #24 race car, pushed around the yard for 18 months and then dropped it off at “Take it or Leave it” for the next racer.

Most of our colleagues in the Saturday Morning Rally have a different, more competitive attitude.  They have the paper and their pens at the ready, they circle the likely looking spots,  cross out those already shopped and, in they are particularly well prepared, have marked it all out on a Young’s Map. 

I don’t know what they are looking for.  In several years of driving around, the tried and true treasures have stayed hidden.  If anything, the sellers remain overly optimistic about the value of their wares.  The stained Oriental rug of Dubuque stays at $200, the half-finished lightship basket stands near $100, and all of the video gaming apparatus costs almost as much as it did in the store.  If there are true bargains out there, they grow in the books.  No matter what yard I visit, the books are almost always a quarter.  (I would love to live in a world where MarioKart 2 sells for fifty cents and Michener’s Hawaii goes for five dollars.)

When I have found bargains, it was usually a mistake.  One friend of mine, as she sold off her excess belongings, had put a signed Reyes basket out with the videotapes.  While ten dollars would have pleased her and angered her ex-husband, she tucked it away when good sense awoke.  Other treasures, once seen, tend to slip to the back of the garage.

Almost every Saturday Sale I go to is superintended by a wife or a mother.  They stand at the end of the driveway with the Marine Home Center belt on, writing prices on masking tape and directing the offspring to stand with the Beanie Babies, the baseball cards, or the hockey skates.  She arranges, she haggles, she makes change, and she waves it all good bye.  The men at most Yard Sales either lurk in the back with a cup of coffee and wait to do the bidding of She Who Must Be Obeyed or they slip off to fix a leak in a house somewhere in Quidnet. 

I don’t know why those men leave; I know why I would.  Selling your stuff in a yard sale is giving up on it.  If I sell the Nordic Track, I am not only admitting that I don’t use it anymore, I am also admitting that I will never, ever use it in the future.  Golf clubs, skis, helmets, hockey sticks all stand in the driveway like repudiated gods.  Even at forty-five, you hate to admit the windsurfing years are behind you.  I would rather pay the money to store it all in a storage locker and keep the dream of skiing down Tuckerman’s alive for one more year.  I suspect that storage lockers, sheds, and new basements all come about because men, like me, don’t want to close any chapter in their lives.

No matter how many yard sales I go to, I also rarely see jewelry for sale. No one every puts out a basket of ear rings with a card that reads “Match them for a Dollar.”  Every woman I have known has kept jewelry from the past; they have torn up the love letters, erased the e-mail, and thrown out the clothes, but they manage to keep the necklaces and diamond studs.  In a way, it’s comforting to believe that long after my time has faded, a little piece of my memory lives on.

The only treasures at yard sales are personal ones.  Every yard sale tells the story of a family, coffee mugs and all.  On any Saturday morning, you will find Wedding presents, Birthday presents, Christmas presents, and Valentine’s day presents lined up on a blue tarp for a few cents.  “World’s Best Dad” mug sits on a table in a driveway that hasn’t seen him in years.  The Sony stereo system that Santa brought for the sixteenth birthday remains at the house long after she has gone.  The board games, the puzzles, the hand-painted children’s furniture marches out the garage under the sardonic teenaged eyes of those who loved them.  When I pick up the most broken, faded cassette player, I think that this was once wrapped and placed under a tree.  Someone loved this and picked it out special;  someone once thought that he lived with the “World’s Best Dad.”  Hemingway once claimed that he wrote a six-word short story: “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”  Each week, the I&M has a shorter one: “Family Good Stuff.  Must Go.”

It’s all just stuff, mass produced in China and Jakarta.  But even the Beanie Babies in the big wicker basket had the glow of love and attention on them at one point.  An aunt spent an afternoon searching for the Panda so that her niece would finally have it in her collection.  The fact that the entire collection can be had for a fiver doesn’t  change the Aunt’s love.  At best, we hope that, when we buy the Beanie Babies, we soak them with love.  Then, as the package is opened and played with, the love coats and stains the hands and skin.  Afterwards, like an empty bottle, it can be put aside.

The Quakers and the Buddhists may have the right idea about all of this stuff.  Perhaps, if we dispensed with it, we could convey our love for each other with words, thoughts, and touches.  Perhaps, in a more perfect world, we could do without the mugs and the ceramic sand castles.. 

But, I would prefer a different world   When they are fat and forty, I would like  my boys to remember the Saturday mornings we spent driving around with donuts.  Our personal story isn’t laid out in plastic on the black top.  It came in the family car.  The wet grass, the dogs, the thousands of times I told them “No,” and the hour of “Car Talk” on the radio; I hope their father’s love still stains their hands long after Jeff Gordon #24 car does one last lap in the dump.

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