Give me a yard sale and a cup of coffee and I’ll tell you a story

07 Aug

I like surprises. Whoa . . . better clarify.

Surprises have a certain pecking order in my preferences. I don’t like gifts from my dogs when I’m late from work, unexpected bills, or broken pipes. I’m talking good surprises. Y’know, the can’t-believe-s/he-remembered surprises. Or, the my-daughter-said-she-couldn’t-come-for-Thanksgiving-but-showed-up-anyway surprises. BUT . . . right up there with free-dessert-cuz-waiter-crushes-on-your-daughters, are the surprises in store when I go ‘yard-saling’.

The world is split between those who find such excursions a special kind of torture and people like me. It’s not the bargains so much (though who could complain?). Nor is it the chance to discover new neighborhoods (another blog for those who get jazzed at garden reconnaissance). Nope. For me, yard sales are blessings in the unexpected and are ALWAYS good for a creative jolt.

Last week, I visited one of my oldest friends. The two of us, chauffeured by her very patient husband, spent six hours driving around Spokane, Washington. We had no shopping list. We had no expectations. We had hope, a newspaper, and $20 in ones.

Rosanne has yard sale karma. She also has parking karma (always the perfect space, how is that possible?), but last Friday we drew upon her unassailable ability to make friends, find treasures and barter with the best. We found all sorts of things . . . things we apparently needed with the desperation of a teenage boy on prom night.

And, even better than the gingham apron with matching oven mitts (exactly like June’s on Leave it to Beaver) . . . I find inspiration. I can’t help it.

People are fascinating and the stuff they collect — then discard — even more so.

Classic yard sale

Allow me to share a few pictures. I simply can’t articulate the descriptors for the nifty, nasty, clever, kitschy, poignant, or practical gewgaws, gadgets, and gratuitous sh** spilled across makeshift tables at both million dollar homes and campground trailers.

This was real. What an amazing and colorful collection? I mean really . . . what isn’t here? A Thumper coffee mug, dairy cows, angels, sand art . . . all gifted or made . . . lives linked. This reminded me of the movie ‘Crash’ . . . except for the lack of carnage.

Where shall we go?

I didn’t need a suitcase. I don’t think I’d buy one at a yard sale, but I liked these. Feels like an adventure is right around the corner. I’m considering a plot where a heroine buys such a suitcase and is immediately whisked to another dimension/time/culture/place based upon the first item she places in the suitcase. Where would a swimsuit take you? A certain scarf? Panty hose? (this is an obscure reference to a not so obscure novel with the word ‘fifty’ in the title).

The owner of the snake paraphernalia claimed his kids had the snakes and they lost interest. Really? A parent buying their kid a snake-breeding kit? Now . . . a guy between sports seasons with a couple of beers under his belt . . . interesting . . . very interesting.

And the point of the jungle vines would be . . . ?

While we were shopping in his front yard, I overheard him say “yeah, you betcha we still have a coupla snakes. ‘Baby’ is around here somewheres.”

Yes, my thoughts exactly. What the h***?

I didn’t take his picture because it didn’t seem honorable . . . oh fine . . . in truth, he creeped me out. If my book about the sociopathic garden store clerk ever makes the shelves, you can read his description.

I could go on. The teddy bears with missing parts who could give Chuckie nightmares . . . the birdfeeder and cage next to the pigeon-sized roasting pan . . . the collection of pick axes, saws, and decorative swords . . . at least I think they were decorative . . . then again, the woman looked a little unhinged . . . and maybe the brown splatters on the hilt . . . ?

What about you? Where are you on the love/hate scale for flea markets, garage sales and the like? Any inspiration from backyard retail?


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12 responses to “Give me a yard sale and a cup of coffee and I’ll tell you a story

  1. johannaharness

    August 7, 2012 at 5:46 AM

    I love this post, Liz. I do the same thing in thrift stores. But the Baby comment? I would not have been considering pictures at that point. I’m pretty sure my next thought would have been, “Wow. I don’t even remember getting back in the car and yet here I am, driving away.”

  2. Liz Fredericks

    August 7, 2012 at 6:55 AM

    Thanks Johanna – absolutely concur on thrift stores . . . it’s seasonal for me . . . . yard in summer, garage in fall and spring, thrift/flea/auction in winter. I tell ya it’s a busy world, but I found my favorite all time Christmas sweater at a thrift shop for $7. Tags still on, angora, liz claiborne . . . oh no, I swore I wouldn’t start swapping sale stories.

  3. Janis McCurry

    August 7, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    I’m a 6 on flea market scale because there is such variety to be found. I’m a -10 on garage/yard sales (I get annoyed that people will try to negotiate down from a 50 cent item just because it’s the “game.”) I don’t shop thrift stores because I don’t really like shopping even in retail stores as a pastime. It sounds like you hit the jackpot on your trip. Good for you.

    • Liz Fredericks

      August 7, 2012 at 10:57 AM

      Thanks Janis . . . I never remember to negotiate. That’s what my ‘muscle’ does. 😉

  4. stephaniebergets

    August 7, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    I love yard sales and used to go all the time when I was young . . . younger. And Baby, as long as I see him first, I’m okay. It’s the surprise that gets me. Great post.

  5. Liz Fredericks

    August 7, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    Thanks Stephanie! I’m with you on ‘Baby’ as long as it doesn’t have rattles. Then again, as long as I have my trusty long-handled shovel . . . .

  6. Meredith Allen Conner

    August 7, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    I love a good sale!!! And garage sales . . . ooohhh!! The wonderful crazy stuff! The people! And, oh my yes, the ideas that pop into fertile brains just waiting for a story to hatch! I wish I had been there. And “Baby” I tell you my feet would have flown out of that yard!!!!!

  7. Liz Fredericks

    August 7, 2012 at 2:01 PM

    You’d have loved it, Mer. I’m glad no ‘story’ hatched in that yard. Can you imagine? A snake breeding kit – who knew?

  8. Peggy Staggs

    August 7, 2012 at 5:18 PM

    Your snake guy sounds great. I can see him living across the street/next door to a main character who is as creeped out as you were.
    Love the the jungle vines.

  9. Lynn Mapp

    August 8, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    The snake guy would have have been enough to send me on my way. My husband had a yard sale a few weeks ago. Notice I didn’t say we. My last involvement with a yard sale was a CBC fundraiser. Someone stole a 10 cents item. That was it for me.

  10. maryvine

    August 9, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    Yard sales can be great. Lately, it seems like I can’t find any worth while. They can be fun to have too, if you have a friend or neighbor with you to pass the time. Good topic idea for a blog!

  11. Clarissa Southwick

    August 19, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    Great photos, Liz. Four jungle vines? That book writes itself.

    I rarely buy things at yard sales because I always think, “Well, if he’s getting rid of it, then I probably would too.”


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