I went to visit my grandma this weekend and we went to some garage sales in her area, which is about an hour north of me, and fairly rural. Sales in that area are either really great or huge failures. I’m usually shopping for antiques or cool vintage stuff. I can tell a “fail sale” before I get out of the car (sometimes I don’t even get out!), because the driveway is covered with crusty plastic baby toys and tables piled full of kids’ clothes. Just not what I need. I’m looking for people that have cool old stuff, they don’t know the “book value” or they don’t care, and they want to get rid of it! Usually sales that have this stuff don’t have much kids’ stuff (or it’s like cool old kids’ stuff, from kids that have long flown the coop!). It always seems to work out that way.
So here are some favorites from today:
1950′s Better Homes and Gardens Magazines (2 for $1) – These have great vintage advertisements and illustrations! Love them!
Heavy pedestal made from an old newel post ($30) – My husband and I both liked this and thought it would look nice in our basement when we’re done with the remodeling. We’ll probably use it as a plant stand.
1982 Stuffed Talking Meow Mix Cat ($10) – This was a little spendy for my taste, but this thing has a pull cord on it and it talks in the cutest voice! It kind of sings a tiny little bit of that Meow Mix song, like it was the precursor to that.
Vintage Kittens book ($2), vintage tiger-striped cat figurine ($3) – I have a bit of a collection going for books that feature vintage cat illustrations. I love cats.
In addition to this stuff, I got some cookbooks, some DVDs, a few craft supply items and such.
One thing I enjoy on the sly at garage sales, are the opportunities to peek into other people’s lives. Each sale is like a little mystery. The clues you get are the items for sale, the idle chatter of the people running the sale, the state of the garage/house/yard and maybe a peek through an opened door. It is interesting to find out what family members live together in the house/apartment, what sort of things they like to do, what topics they are interested in… You can see struggles that people have gone through, things they have given up on. Commonly: diet books, exercise equipment, furniture that has been poorly re-painted, furniture that has been partially stripped and given up on, car parts that never made it onto a car, dusty sporting equipment…
We went to one sale in a house that looked like a duplex, but it was really a small apartment building with 4 separate little apartments. The sale holder was a tough-looking old fella, I’d guess he was in his 70′s. When I first walked into his apartment, I’d pegged this as a more typical, average sale with old VHS tapes, exercise equipment, some old clothing… But the sale extended into a few of the bedrooms in his place. In the first bedroom we went into there was a stamp collection in albums and as I started flipping through it, the man came in and said that it was his wife’s and that she was Japanese and the stamps were saved from her correspondence with friends. I was struck by how he referenced her in the past tense. I did not want to inquire, well maybe I wanted to, but I didn’t think it would be polite. Then I noticed on his walls some framed certificates regarding service in the US Airforce. Perhaps he met his wife in Japan when he went there on a tour. In the next room, there were some Japanese antiques for sale, and as I admired them he talked about how he and his wife had returned to Japan three times when she was alive, but that she didn’t want to live there again. She loved it here (in the USA) because it was less crowded. At this point, I started to feel a little sad. His wife was definitely dead, and he seemed so alone. Even though he had pictures of some smiling grandchildren on his walls, he seemed so lonely, so alone to me. His face didn’t look like one that smiled easily, so worn, so tired. I don’t know how long his wife had been gone, but I imagine it wasn’t that long–among the items for sale were things like a plastic shower seat, various mobility devices. There were two lidded teacups with writing in Japanese, one said Grandma, the other Grandpa. I felt like he was selling memories. I felt like he was desperate. There was a sign on the wall over her stamp collection in the other room, and the price was crossed off and reduced 5 times. As I had casually flipped through it, he’d said he would take less. He said that regarding everything I touched or looked at. It made my heart ache a little bit that there wasn’t really anything I needed or really wanted to buy.