Jack of all trades … and yard sales

After Vermont was pummeled with snow April 15, we all looked longingly for signs of spring. Well, it came — along with mud, tulips with a death wish, and my neighbor’s cat, Jack, who would spray a living grizzly bear if he saw one — and now we can start appreciating the signs of summer.
Actually, Jack was hanging around our house even when it was winter. The guy is a feline fire hose.
In any case, one of my favorite signs of summer occurs next Saturday, when Lincoln holds its annual townwide yard sale. Hundreds of shoppers will descend upon the village here in Addison County, many as early as 9 a.m., for a daylong shopping spree. (Jack will spray some of the shoppers, too, but that’s another story.) As many as 40 families will hold yard sales, in addition to the tables of books and plants and used toasters that will be set up on the grounds of the Lincoln Library.
Maps with the locations of the sales are available at the Lincoln Store. I would provide directions to the library and the store, but Lincoln is small. If you arrive in the village and can’t find these two structures, you probably shouldn’t be allowed to operate heavy machinery or handle a disposable razor.
Now, it’s not the stuff that’s for sale that makes me savor the day. When my daughter was little, we used to wander from yard to yard together and search out Barbies, but other than dolls that looked like Paris Hilton (and were, apparently, about as smart), we didn’t buy much. My daughter once spent a quarter on a wallet she never used and a dime on a candle she never burned. Once she wanted to buy a drinking glass that she liked, but it had calcified brown crud on the bottom and the sellers simply gave it to her. My hope is that none of us have ever drunk from that glass accidentally.
One year, however, my family made an exception and spent serious money: A decade ago, my wife and I bought two easy chairs for $10. She had them reupholstered, and they still look pretty jazzy. Other than that, however, I don’t think I’ve spent more than $25 at the Town Wide Yard Sale in my entire life — though, in all fairness, that is 25 more dollars than I have spent at all other yard sales on the planet combined.
The reality is that most things that are sold at yard sales are sold for a reason. No one wants them. Moreover, if you live in Lincoln and you aren’t careful, you might very well buy something in 2007 that you sold in 2003. It’s not just bottles and cans we recycle here.
And this year, of course, there is the added risk that every single item for sale will have been sprayed by a four-legged pumper filled with ammonia named Jack. (Coming soon to a movie theater near you, the science fiction saga of a cyborg cat from the future, “The Urinator.”)
But then there are those nuggets of gold which, if you look carefully enough, you might discover. The easy chairs in our living room are an example.
Nevertheless, I am sincere when I tell you that it isn’t the hunt for the perfect blanket chest that makes the afternoon so worthwhile. It’s the reality that the day is a village-wide block party. Everyone who hasn’t already emerged from hibernation is out. My neighbor Robert Fuller — a chef who just happens to own Pauline’s, Leunig’s and the Bobcat Cafe — is preparing crepes in his driveway on Creamery Street. Vaneasa Stearns and her General Store will be selling cookies they baked that morning, as well as all manner of soups and wraps.
Suddenly, even if the weather is brisk, the crowds are good-natured, and we all welcome in summer. And you just don’t know what treasures await.
One warning: If you do visit us next Saturday and see a friendly, gray tiger stripe cat wandering around, pet him only if you’ve just purchased a raincoat.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on May 20, 2007.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

One thought on “Jack of all trades … and yard sales

  1. Donald Kendall says:

    Hi Chris,
    It has been a while since I have had a chance to reply to your column. My computer was broken for a bit. I loved this recent column a lot. As always you look into the heart of the matter and make something as mundane as Yard Sale shopping and write about it in a breezy, fun and provacative?? way. It is great to check in and hope you have a great Memorial Day Weekend.

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