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Selling Memories

by Jean Pond

I probably shouldn’t have tried to have my first garage sale at 85, but the walls were crying out and I had to do something.

Human Options, a shelter for women received the clothing. Goodwill Industries got the thrift shop items and the rest were for my sale.

I draped a picnic table and card tables with sheets and identified every object by name and price with computer labels to cut down on negotiations.

There is absolutely no way to predict what is saleable. Things that I thought would sell quickly did not sell and things that I had no hope of selling disappeared immediately.

There are always the antique hunters and I think the fact that I was an antique myself was helpful. A prospective customer would say, “How old is this?” and, when true, I would say, “Well, it’s older than I am” and it would immediately be an antique even if it was only a potato masher.

A Southeastern European gentleman fondled a bracelet while he examined everything else. Finally he asked, “What is this?” I said, “It is a rhinestone bracelet.” He thought about it a while and then came back to me and said, “How do you spell rhinestone?” I spelled it and he bought it.

A pretty 18 year old girl spotted a seed pearl pin that was in the shape of the letter J. She asked, “When did you wear this?”

I replied, "When I was about your age I wore it on my Lana Turner sweater. It had considerable pick-up power. The boy would say, 'What does the J stand for' and I would say 'Guess.' Sometimes after about ten minutes of that give and take it ended with a chocolate soda.”

The Lana Turner reference didn’t mean anything to her. Her name turned out to be Jennifer and she went home with the pin as a gift.

There was a suitcase for a woman going to the Middle East in order to try to find her mother. There was a young mother who had to find a sleeping bag for her ten year old son she had promised could go camping if she found one by Tuesday. There was a devout Jewish lady who wanted to buy the rug steamer, but whose religion did not allow her to make a purchase on Saturday. It was put aside and she came at dawn the next day with the money. There was the pink Easter basket whose price dropped dramatically when I looked into the big brown eyes of the tiny girl. And there was the elderly man whom my instincts told me could not read. He said he enjoyed the Discovery Channel and found an almost free book on animals with lots of pictures.

A rather dilapidated gentleman was browsing and heard me mention my age. When I was free to talk he came over and said, “You don’t look half bad for 85.”

I don’t remember whether he bought anything or not, but if he did, you can be sure he got a deep discount. “Half bad” is acceptable.

I couldn’t believe I sold six beautiful vintage hats and the gloves to go with them. Do you think I should write Diane Keaton a thank you note?

There were a few emotional moments such as when I sold a small pressed glass pitcher. In 1915 my father had a pharmacy and that pitcher was the measure for a penny’s worth of candy.

After the first couple of hours my technique improved especially when a neighbor from down the block came in and frantically said, “I have to find a present for my brother-in-law. What sports items do you have?" After saying, “Tom, do I look sporty to you?” I sold him a Dick Francis book about horseracing.

I enjoyed the sociability. My profit was a little more than enough to pay for a chiropractor, but the fact that I had to have help getting out of bed the morning after the sale distanced thoughts of future such adventures.

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