The yard sale is a regular happening in my neighborhood. Cars begin lining up at somebody's house. On the front lawn are tables of items and curious folks inspecting them. People who don't need anything go to yard sales, and always find something. I take note of what's going on, become curious, then start walking down the street. You just know there will be an item you'd like to have. I found an orange- juice machine once.
Anything can be at a yard sale: wagon wheels, canoes, ancient stereos, a Model T Ford tool kit, a set of dentures, Hula-Hoops.
My aunt was an antiques expert, but she didn't confine her expertise to antiques. She went to flea markets, swap meets, garage sales.... She looked at everything. During my boyhood, I received secondhand gifts from her that I didn't expect, need, or desire.
One was a violin, complete with weathered, warped case. I suppose it was out of tune. For several days I dragged a frayed bow across its decrepit strings, driving my family loony with a scratchy, screechy, sour concert. Soon I was urged to enter the instrument in our own yard sale.
My aunt also found an Army rifle at a sale. It had been discovered in the mud in Korea long after the armistice. The barrel was plugged, the leather strap rotten, the wood decaying. It was hopelessly rusty.
My aunt was generous, adventurous, and impulsive. Traveling around with her, I learned to be careful what I wished for. I might get it. If I took a fancy to an unhappy postwar Studebaker at a swap meet, I might find it in the driveway the next day with a bow around it and a birthday card.
My dad owned a pair of yard-sale shoes; he was proud of them. He liked them better than his stiff, nearly new pair. He took peculiar pride in announcing that his elegant shoes had come from a yard sale. My mother preferred that such announcements be omitted from conversation.
Discussing items found at yard sales enlivens the noon hour at a fast-food place I frequent: just the right golf clubs or the perfect tennis racket. One fellow laughed delicately for several seconds after describing a doll he saw. It was sitting on a coffee table reaching out its arms and looking at him with one eye closed. I found a typewriter at a yard sale, and I adore it.
On my closet shelf is a box of 45 r.p.m. records. Somewhere out there is a record player with life in it. I'm on the prowl for it. All those '50s and '60s hits will fill my home again. A long time has passed since I heard Charlie Drake sing "My Boomerang Won't Come Back."
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