How to Win the Eastside Hill Thrift Sale
a step-by-step, yard-by-yard guide to treasure hunting
1. Remember, all the good stuff is gone by 10am.
2. Wear comfortable shoes, for you do not live in the Eastside Hill, and you will get lost and spend hours searching for your car in the hot sun. You will be reminded of Sir Henry Morton Stanley searching the Congo for Dr. Livingstone except you are carrying someone else’s Crock-Pot.
3. Do not bring your toddler. Toddlers have sticky fingers.
4. Do not just go to the kids’ sales. Visit the sale of the old man with rusty things, for he is selling a Cookie Monster jar, identical to the one you grew up with. Because your brother lives closer, your mother passed along the cookie jar to him even though you were the one who made cookies. Pay the old man $2, haggling him down from $3. Although you want your childhood back, dammit, you don’t want to overpay.
Browse through a page-a-day calendar of daily affirmations; a middle-aged woman’s complete wardrobe – shoes, handbags, and cheap jewelry; and books on cognitive behavioral therapy, grief, and loss. Do not ask the man why he is moving; you are afraid the answer would be filled with so much sadness as to drown you.
5. When you bump into an old friend, marvel at how big her new baby is because he is huge and also because her first child had always struggled to grow, which caused no end of grief. Rejoice in the largeness of her second baby. Heft him, ask what on earth she’s been feeding him, and be happy for her and also for yourself, because you do not have to carry him around on your own hip. Recommend your chiropractor.
6. Stop at any house that is for sale. They do not care how much they get for their grandmother’s china, they just don’t want to move it to yet another house for they know that this time they will not unbox it but rather store it awkwardly for decades until after their own deaths when the children can no longer remember the sound of their great-grandmother’s voice. The children will discover the box of spidery china and wonder whose it was. They will not remember when they were babies and chewed on the spoons, nor when they were four and felt so proud sitting at the adult table until they spilled the cranberry sauce. They won’t remember her funeral nor the minor family skirmish that ensued as her belongings were divided up by her many loved ones. They will simply wonder whose china it is and grump that now they have to get rid of it, along with all the other junk in the basement. To avoid future resentment, the china is sold now for far less than it’s worth.
7. Overhear another man selling his house saying that he is getting rid of everything. Browse through a page-a-day calendar of daily affirmations; a middle-aged woman’s complete wardrobe – shoes, handbags, and cheap jewelry; and books on cognitive behavioral therapy, grief, and loss. Do not ask the man why he is moving; you are afraid the answer would be filled with so much sadness as to drown you. Buy the cognitive behavior book because when you wake in the night everything is dark and scary and so loud with worry.
8. Ponder the house selling The Audacity of Hope and textbooks on Islam alongside the Sarah Palin biography and a book called The Rage of Obama. Figure they were conducting opposition research on one side or the other, but don’t know which. Refuse to buy anything because clearly they are mean-spirited and should not be encouraged, but then notice that they are selling only one of the Harry Potter books, which is odd because it was the best of the seven, and if you’re going to get rid of any of them, why Goblet of Fire?
9. Realize that if he sees it, your husband will want to know why you bought a book on cognitive behavioral therapy and ask about your night thoughts, which really aren’t a big deal, but they belong only to you and the dark. Leave the book in a Little Free Library.
10. Trek back to the car carrying a sweater, water bottle, cribbage board, Crock-Pot, Cookie Monster, two flower pots, a beaded bracelet, and Goblet of Fire. Collapse into the hot seat and wonder where you are going to put all of this stuff.