The First Giant Blowout Garage Sale

By Felice Prager

The First Giant Blowout Garage Sale

With news of my husband’s pending transfer, our lives would change forever. We would be moving away from family and friends to a place where we would have to start all over. My husband and I were nervously excited about the move from New Jersey to Arizona, but our relatives and friends staged an all-out campaign to reverse our decision. It was verbal warfare staged deliberately in front of Jeff, our four-year-old son. In our family’s defense, they didn’t want us to move. However, their tactics were far from subtle. Jeff heard tales of a far-off land where mail was delivered by Pony Express, schools were one-room schoolhouses where work was done on slates, and children sat in the corner with a “Dunce” cap if they talked too much. According to my creative cousin, Arizona was where water came from wells, and out-houses were modern conveniences. Jeff, who was afraid of the pediatrician, heard of tribal medicine men who cured things using hunting knives. My cousin told Jeff that in order to have friends in Arizona, you had to become blood brothers. She also told Jeff that it was so hot in Arizona you could fry an egg on the top of your covered wagon. The worst thing she said, and the thing that brought Jeff to tears was, “You’ll never see snow again!” We tried to explain to Jeff that my cousin was making up these things so we wouldn’t move because she loved us, but we could tell Jeff was not sure what to believe.

Since the movers charged by the pound, we had to get rid of many of our memories. Our new Arizona home did not have a basement, and the attic was filled with insulation. It seemed inevitable that we would be joining the ranks of those who put their things in the driveway in hopes of selling it to people who knew treasures when they saw them.

My husband, Sam, a retailer, has worked in stores all his life, and before the First Giant Blowout Garage Sale his perception of buying and selling required a salesperson, a cash register, receipts, security cameras, advertised specials, newspaper inserts and bags with store logos on them. Sam never went to sleep the night before the First Giant Blowout Garage Sale. Unlike other garage sales, Sam wanted our driveway to look like a merchandising masterpiece. He used all the techniques he had learned from his college and professional experience. Items would be placed strategically so our customers would be psychologically coaxed into looking at them. Items would be appropriately priced for a quick sale. Sam was so involved in the process that at about two in the morning, he woke me up and said, “We have gaps. I need stuff to fill the gaps. What else can we sell?” While he talked, he was unplugging the TV in our bedroom. “We can always buy a new TV.”

In my bathrobe, in the middle of a cool spring New Jersey night, I trudged outside to see a driveway that resembled a department store. Items had signs like “Priceless collectible. Yours for only $5!” The $5 had been a $10 but it was crossed out to look like the price had been reduced. What seemed odd was that most of MY stuff was priced ridiculously low; Sam’s stuff, on the other hand, was priced insanely high. I made no comments. I would address the problem with my own red marker in the morning.

While walking through the garage to go back indoors, I noticed a pile. On top of the pile were two Flexible Flyer sleds we had each brought to our marriage. Mine was the cleaner, less-used one. Sam had informed me at the beginning of our lives together that his was better. His was ugly. The paint was almost gone. On our son Jeff’s first sleighing experience, he used Sam’s sled. Sam had convinced him “No real man would be caught on a girly dumb sled like Mom’s. Real men need cool sleds that go fast.” I wasn’t going to disagree. Mine still looked as pretty as the day it was purchased for me.

What Sam’s sled didn’t have was the memory of another use it had.

As a child, I lived in a small apartment. The doors to each apartment faced out into a grassy courtyard where neighbors sat on their stoops and had coffee in the evening. Neighbors were friends.

It was a Sunday. A blizzard had been predicted. The radio was on, and the broadcaster spoke of the snow in terms of how many feet we would get and whether schools would be closed the next day.

When the snow started and the streets started getting too slippery to drive, the dads in the neighborhood borrowed our sleds and headed off on foot to the only market in town. My dad pulled two sleds, mine and my brother’s. Mine was brand new and pretty, free of all paint chips and signs of use. My brother’s was a hand-me-down from my dad’s youngest brother. It was worn in and looked it. My brother liked it better that way. He said it was faster and much cooler than my new one.

The market was a little family-run store that normally wasn’t open on Sundays, but they were opening this Sunday so customers could stock up on essentials for the big storm. I remember my dad coming home with at least two dozen cans of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, crackers, hot cocoa, marshmallows, milk and several packages of Hydrox cookies and Mallomars.

During that storm, the winds changed, and the snow blew so hard and heavy that our neighbors’ doors were blocked. When the storm ended, we dug out our neighbors. That created a giant mountain of snow in the middle of our courtyard which was where we chose to use our sleds during that blizzard. That was where we played King of the Mountain.

I remember my skin being bright red and wet when we went back inside to change clothes and get warm. My fingers and toes tingled. We removed what seemed like endless layers of wet clothes. We did not have a washing machine or dryer in our apartment, so my mother hung gloves, scarves, hats, mufflers and sweaters over radiators and in most rooms around our small apartment. Space heaters were helping us warm up so we could go back outside to play in the snow again.

On the stove, we spied the hot tomato soup and cocoa my dad had pulled back from the market on our sleds. Dad and the sleds were the warmest memory I kept in my heart, and I wanted my son to have the same. It made me sad to think that by moving to the desert, our son would never know the sensations of a snowstorm or have memories such as these.

Lost in his own memories, Sam said, “We can’t get rid of these sleds.”

“No, we can’t,” I agreed.

I never went back to sleep that night. I went into the kitchen and made hot cocoa for both of us.

The garage sale was successful. We sold things we did not need. We sold things that in years since we have looked for and then suddenly realized, “We sold it at the First Giant Blowout Garage Sale.”

People wandered beyond the driveway and into the garage. A young boy and his father were standing in the garage, looking at the two sleds. “Daddy, ask him what they cost,” the little boy whispered loud enough for us to hear. We realized that we would have no need for sleds in Phoenix. So we sold them. My husband told the little boy that the pretty sled wasn’t as cool as the beat up sled. The little boy’s father stood there nodding his head in agreement, and said, “That one can be for your sister.”

This past fall, Jeff, now a young adult, left for college. In spite of our need for a warm climate, Jeff opted to move to Colorado. While packing his truck with all of the things he would need in a first apartment, Sam looked at me and said, “In Colorado, he could have used our sleds.”

There was no need to explain why I suddenly felt so sad.

About this writer

  • Felice Prager Felice Prager is a freelance writer and multisensory educational therapist from Scottsdale, Arizona. She is the author of five books: Waiting in the Wrong Line, Negotiable and Non-Negotiable Negotiations, TurboCharge Your Brain, SuperTurboCharge Your Brain, and Quiz It: ARIZONA. Her essays have been published locally, nationally and internationally in print and on the Internet. Learn more at www.WriteFunny.com.

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