Sunday, May 13, 2007

Yard Sale Pentimento

At one point I visualized a Norman Rockwell painting of it: Men, women, and families in Saturday clothes poking around a driveway full of old typewriters and camping equipment, handing over cash for used books and appliances and toys. Meanwhile, my son Nick and I sat in lawn chairs, enjoying the spring breezes and counting our cash.

Buyers descended in bunches, they flocked and haggled, in the casual mix of socializing and commerce. My late husband's tools brought a good price, and so did Nick's huge flowerpot. A young couple bought the little toy kitchen for their one-year-old girl with wispy nearly bald hair; a stocky two-year-old grrrrred off with a toy red wheelbarrow; how like my Nick 35 years ago. My favorite sale was to the woman who bought the booster seat for her grandson and a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook from the 1950s (with ghastly looking photos of real food, before they learned to stage it). She handed me three dollar bills, saying, "My mother cooked out of this book, and I'm going for shepherd's pie tonight!"

Eating doughnuts in the sun and watching strangers carry off my worldly goods turned the imaginary Rockwell painting into a shimmering pentimento. Behind the scene in front of us tumbled images from the past. I was picturing my granddaughter Megan at age one with her wispy bald hair opening and shutting the cupboards of the toy kitchen. My granddaughter Amelia, who is now wearing high heels, seemed to be laughing and painting as a four-year-old at the small easel. Her brother Isaac appeared in babyhood one last time in the umbrella stroller that a pregnant mom took away for five bucks. Meanwhile, two adolescent boys gave me $10.00 for Beatles albums that our daughter Tory stored in our basement when she left for Yale in 1984. Right next to Tory's adolescent ghost playing music into a summer night with her friends, I imagined my Den in torn khaki pants with knobby ankles protruding, covering his white beard with dust while whirring away at one of his projects with those power tools. All our times jostled together in that dust, and today's spring breezes seemed like the winds of time. Oooooh!

Afterwards Nick and I carried all the unsold stuff into the garage, and there was still a lot left over. I have plenty of time to indulge nostalgia over our old camp stove and the outgrown crib. Nick took some of our $237.00 proceeds for gas money, kissed me good-bye, and drove away. I had a sunburn. The next sentimental journey will be to the dump.


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