Neighborhood Yard Sale

Posted on May 23, 2021


Yesterday was the annual neighborhood yard sale. Life in the Boomer Lane was both organizer and participant.

The weather was what the DC area rarely provides: temperatures in the high 80s, full sun, and no humidity. The starting time was 8 AM. The first looker arrived at 6:45. He bought a book for twenty-five cents. The till had begun to fill. From that point on, the customers steadily came. After the book, the next item gone was one of the riding toys LBL no longer needed for her grandchildren. After that, items that fit every category one could imagine, began to disappear from the driveway. They were all moving on to new homes and possibly to spouses/partners who would react with “Now why on earth did we need that?”

A very large white lotus-shaped bowl sat on the table. It used to be a precious dining room table centerpiece, until LBL decided she wanted a different look to the room. Everyone stopped and exclaimed how beautiful the bowl was. Then they moved on. LBL lowered the price, until finally, she removed the price tag entirely.

Friends came to help, drawn from condos and apartments in which they never had the experience to have yard sales. Neighbors stopped by, offering names and pointing to home locations that LBL would be sure to forget the moment they moved on. A recent client came, one that LBL had gotten especially close to during the transaction. Older children came, rooting around for items that LBL couldn’t imagine she would have to entice them. One bought a nerf gun. Hours later, he rode by on a bike. When he saw Now Husband, he nodded and yelled, “Good afternoon, Sir!,” nerf gun tucked firmly under his arm.

A man came looking specifically for women’s sandals and Christmas decor. He shared his life story with LBL and her friends, then said he was buying items for people in Manila. He ships them over, then flies there himself. He and the items arrive at the same time. He then personally distributes them. Always high on the priority list are sandals (the weather) and Christmas items (Filipinos love to celebrate Christmas). LBL and her friend gave him all of their shoes (sandals or not), an expensive handmade shoulder bag made of fishing line, and anything else he thought would be appreciated by these people. They refused to take payment for anything. As he left, the man said, “I don’t go through the church anymore. No church. Not necessary. I just give directly.” He piled everything into his car and took off. LBL thought about what the world would be like if everyone took personal responsibility like that.

As the morning wore on, fewer and fewer items remained. The large lotus bowl was among them. The full size folding crib and kiddie table and chairs left with an impossibly adorable young couple who were due with their first child in the fall. Toddler toys went with newly-minted grandmothers trying to stock up for grandchildren’s visits. An older child bought a piece of digital art created by LBL’s friend. Many customers shared their stories as they shopped and bought. “I live in Berkeley. I raised my children there. I never thought my daughter would want to leave that area,” said by a woman whose adult daughter smiled as her mom talked. Clearly, she had heard this before. As they spoke, LBL looked at the three month old baby in the stroller next to the daughter. She thought of her own daughter who moved to Brooklyn, then London, then back to Brooklyn again. She couldn’t remember when she had emotionally crossed the line from wishing her daughter lived closer to being grateful that she had produced a woman who believed that “home” had greater possibilities than the place in which she was born.

“Is this bag from Peru?” asked by a woman who simply wanted to buy something from home. Love and longing was evident by the way she touched the fabric. Even the ones who didn’t directly share their stories, did so indirectly, merely by the way they approached the items for sale and the questions that they asked. The air was filled with stories, whether verbalized or not.

“How much is the bowl?” LBL heard a woman ask. She turned, and knew immediately that the women who stood in front of her would bring the bowl home. She heard herself say, “It’s as much as you would like to pay,” then suggested a price that was less than half of anything she thought she would have taken. The bowl went home with its new owner.

Each year, after the sale ends, LBL surveys her empty attic closet and smiles. Then, five minutes later, she throws a couple things in that she should have sold at the sale but forgot about. This process continues over the next 12 months until the closet is, once again filled, ready for the next sale that arrives right on schedule. Then, on the next yard sale day, the items all come out and are placed on view, to await the next round of stories, spoken and unspoken, that arrive in cars, in pick up trucks, and on foot.

Posted in: life