My wife had that look on her face. A twinkle in her
eye, eager, excited, tongue peeking through her teeth. It was early in the
morning, but so what.
"Let’s," she said, coyly rubbing up against
me as we stood in our kitchen, "have a garage sale."
Oh…. Let’s not.
No way was I going to have a garage sale with this
woman. She grew up in a small town in Northern Quebec where her family
owned the only general store. Her whole adolescence was one big garage
Her father and brothers, who still run the store, would
sell anything to make a buck. There are plenty of stories but my all-time
favorite is when a customer came in the day before Thanksgiving and asked
if they had any turkeys.
And they did. It was the one they were getting ready to
roast for their big family Thanksgiving Day feast.
With those kind of experiences pulsing in her blood, I
could only imagine what would be left of our belongings once she was
through making deals at a garage sale.
"I already placed the ad in the paper," she
said, nonchalantly noting the horror in my face. "We’re having it
on Saturday from 8:00 to 1:00."
I sensed her looking longingly at me again, but this
time I knew she was checking my clothes to see if they had any value
"The kids won’t be home," she added, proud
of herself for planning ahead. "They probably won’t miss a
Realizing that the garage sale was indeed going to
happen, I was relieved to hear the children wouldn’t be around. It might
be traumatic for them to see their beloved teddy bear, whom they had
shared a bed with for twelve years, labelled with a price tag of fifty
And the glee on their mother’s face if she got the
fifty cents would send them to the psychiatrist for years to come.
On the morning of the big day we were both up at dawn,
moving anything and everything into the driveway to await the hordes of
customers. Furniture, toys, books, dishes, lamps, phones, rugs….
"NO, PLEASE, NOT THAT PICTURE," I cried, trying and
failing to grab a framed poster of an old man watching the ocean that my
wife was carrying to the driveway. "I love that picture. You can’t
She was grinning as she wrote $2.00 on a price tag and
slapped it on the frame. "It doesn’t fit anywhere," she said.
"Get over it."
This scene was repeated about 15 or 20 times, with me
losing 15 or 20 times, and then we were ready for our first customer, who
arrived at 7:45. He browsed under our watchful eye for a few minutes and
then announced he was looking for antiques.
I know that type. Lookie-loos. "Come back in fifty
years," I told him, "and we’ll take care of you."
The next two customers were searching for old records,
which apparently are the latest rage, at least among the garage sale set.
Two days earlier there was a guy lurking in our driveway. He had seen our
ad, was looking for old records, and wanted to beat the rush.
I told them all the same thing—they just missed. We
had moved on to 8-track tapes and had stupidly thrown out all our old
records only 20 years ago.
By 10:00 it was clear there is indeed a price for
everything, and for us it was pretty much zero. My wife began to bargain
on the few items in which any customers showed a speck of interest, and we
consequently made some sales.
In the end, I called it a tie. The entire day netted us
slightly more than the cost of the ad, which made me a winner because I
thought the garage sale was a stupid idea in the first place. And my wife
was thrilled because someone actually paid full price for the picture of
the old man.
Her father would be proud.