I took an unusual vacation recently:
I went to Los Angeles to help my parents with a garage sale.
They're moving out of the house they've lived in for 26 years,
the one they've had since I was 5 years old. It's easy to
accumulate a lot of stuff in 26 years, and this was their
first garage sale in all that time.
But I also sensed that
selling off once-loved possessions, such as my Barbie doll
collection or my brother's neon Bud Lite sign, might be emotional,
so I thought I'd go help out with the moral support department as
well. Plus, I wanted to make sure "Pretty in Pink Barbie" found a
My esteemed editors
graciously allowed me to take Friday off, so I spent it on the
floor of my former bedroom with my mom, sorting through childhood
treasures. As a child of the '80s, I had all sorts of embarrassing
reminders of the decade and who I was during it. The Bananarama
cassette epitomized this. There was also my old jewelry.
There were so many
fabulously garish earrings and green-finger inducing rings that I
decided to put each item in a baggie and charge a buck a bag. Some
were even real silver, but still no person in her right mind would
be caught dead in that crap (an incorrect assumption, as luck would
Memory lane extended all
the way back to toddlerhood when I saw my old stuffed giraffe
Margaret, a 2-foot tall creature looking extremely worse for the
wear. "I think there were some rats nesting in it in the garage,"
"Isn't she cute?" Mom
said. "Look you even dressed her in your baby clothes!"
The next day was Garage
Sale day. Dad hung signs around the neighborhood advertising our
sale, which was to take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. But several of
the other neighbors had decided that if we were having a garage
sale, they'd have them too. The other sales started at 8 a.m., so
as we were setting up around 8:30, the masses attempted to descend
on us. "Do you have any toys?" a woman asked as we set up the 50
"Yes, but we don't start
until 10 o'clock," Mom replied sweetly.
A couple left the sale
at the house across the street and started rummaging through one of
our clothing bags.
"I'm sorry, we're still
setting up we'll open at 10 o'clock," Mom said. She gave me an
Two burly men
approached. "Any Star Wars stuff?" one of them barked.
"Ten o'clock!" Mom
Around 9:15 a.m., a
heavyset guy was staking his claim on my former exercise bike by
standing with a hand on it. He made it very clear that he would
maintain his position until the opening bell at 10 a.m. He kept
offering to pay for it so he and the bike could leave, and I
finally said, "Just let him pay, Mom. Why not?"
She foolishly listened
to me, accepted his $45 for the $500 bike, and the floodgates were
open. The Garage Sale was happening whether we liked it or not, and
dozens of experienced hagglers had at the rookies. Meanwhile,
well-meaning neighbors took the opportunity to snoop through our
"Wow, someone likes to
drink," one said snidely of my extensive shot glass collection, as
a teen-ager holding an infant asked me if he could get four of them
for a dollar. I slipped the greenback into my fanny pack as an
older man exclaimed, "Barbies! Do you have any from the
I followed him to the
table where a 9-year-old Latina was lovingly stroking the hair of
Western Barbie. I helped her fight off the creepy older guy, but he
did end up nabbing Tuxedo Ken when I wasn't looking. I ended up
giving her "Pretty in Pink Barbie"for free so that Barbie ended up
with a little girl who would love her instead of a bargain hunter.
The little girl's smile was the highlight of my day but
unfortunately, the day was far from over.
I plunged back into the
fray. Mom was selling a young couple a set of fondue forks for a
dollar. "They were a wedding present 35 years ago," she explained
to their delight. Less delightful was the man tugging at my arm and
asking, "How much for the video camera?"
"Yeah, it's just kind of
big." They don't make them that big anymore because people become
top heavy and fall over while filming with such
"I'll give you
I yelled to Mom to see
if it was OK, and she said "sure" with a vaguely dazed
"Before I pay for the
camera, do you have any computer stuff?" he asked.
We had a brand new CD
writer for $35.
"I'll give you
"No man, it's supposed
to be $35."
He refused by snorting
his disgust. Pouring salt in the wound, he thrust a $100 bill at me
and tapped his foot while waiting for his change.
There was a momentary
lull, and Mom asked me what time it was. She figured it must be
almost lunch time.
"10:15," I said, and we
burst out laughing.
The rest of the day was
a blurred sociological experiment. A neighbor bought $60 worth of
Smurfs, a 6-foot tall novelty baseball bat and the rest of my
Barbies. A gangsta looking guy bought my "Fat Boys" album and
cracked up when I started singing, "The Fat Boys are back" to
him. A professional looking twenty-something bought a travel book
for the Yucatan, and then started telling my dad and me that
"Mayans lived thousands of years before Christ. People don't know
that. And they're descendants of extraterrestrials who came on
UFOs. Think about it." Dad thought it prudent to wait for him to
leave before rolling his eyes at me.
I even got hit on. I had
tried to interest a possibly drugged man in my parents' K2 skis
from 1987. He declined ("I need bindings set for a size 12 boot")
but asked if I'd have dinner with him that night.
"I'm going out with my
grandparents tonight," I said (a wedding ring is not a dating
deterrent in L.A.) before Mom hustled him away.
We didn't manage to sell
the snow chains, Dad's Army boots or a Durango Herald baseball hat (vestige of a former life
I barely remember), and we couldn't give poor Margaret the Giraffe
away, despite several attempts with cute children. But most of the
'80s earrings were sold or stolen, and the "sandwich smasher" sold
itself. The Girl Scout tents with missing stakes even found a new
Some of the treasures
also found a new home in Durango, like the massage pillow and the
fake vomit. After all, some things are priceless.