My abysmal failure in a one-day business venture
I felt like I threw a party and nobody showed up.
In an effort to clear out the storage pantry of my life, I decided to have a yard sale. Periodically I cruise my rooms, sort out items I haven't used in a while (10 years?), gather up things I realize I will never use, including once-valuable knicker-knackers and other tchotchkes. Trash or treasure, I have a houseful.
If I need to rid my life of just a little junk, I donate the stuff to the Salvation Army. But this time, I sorted out a virtual mountain of things. I decided to pass them along to others and make a buck along the way.
The local gurus of junk marketing have successful yard sales. I hear them talk. Always hold a sale on the Saturday nearest the first or the fifteenth of the month, paydays, they say. One yard-sale maven reported she made $600 at her yard sale. Well, I made $1,000 at mine, another hometown woman bragged. As I gathered items, cleared entire sections of my dwelling, and minimized my stuff, visions of sweet success floated before me. In my mind, I began to spend my bonanza.
Since I had company visiting, good friends to help me, I decided to hold my sale last Saturday, ignoring the advice of the experts. Payday time or not, it shouldn't make that much difference, I reasoned.
Vidya, a meticulous woman, lettered the posters. David helped me clean out my yard cabin where I store garden tools, my recycle bins, old furniture frames I intend to restore some day (don't say it), and those things I don't know where to put but know I want to keep. My goodness, I had a hoard of stuff. I even found some strange vintage tools my dad had preserved. Vidya went to the basement with me to help me as I brutally trimmed back my life goods. Ho, ho! We made a haul. This was good stuff, things I had once cherished, but had languished from lack of use.
I grew up in a home with two sets of everything. My family used what we called "everyday" dishes and tablecloths and pillow slips. We stored those fancier and nicer items we labeled "good," and good meant for company, in closets and cupboards, protected from the grubby everyday fingers of us children. We had a parlor, which we cleaned every Saturday, but which remained untouched behind closed doors until company came. Then we threw open the doors, built a fire to warm the room and displayed all the hidden "good" stuff.
At a tender age, I determined my life would be different. Everything I owned would be beautiful. Everything would be used every day. And so it has been.
My problem is that I continually find another beautiful thing or two. So out with the old and in with the new. If, after I throw out a former treasure, I feel remorse, oh, well, it's just stuff. More stuff will replace it. There is no such thing as lack.
The day of the sale my friends and I were up at dawn. We set up tables, unpacked boxes, priced everything for a quick sale and waited for the early-birds to arrive. But at eight o'clock, starting time, nobody had even driven by. At eight-thirty nobody had driven by. At 9 o'clock David drove to Albertson's to grab some mid-morning sustenance. "There were only two cars on Main Street. One of them was mine," he said. "And nobody in the store."
By 10 o'clock we had counted two customers and one looker. More trains had passed on the track than cars on the street. The outlook was bleak.
"Harlem feels abandoned," I said. "There is a county fair both east and west of us. The whole town must be either in Havre or Dodson."
At 11 o'clock, a woman stopped to browse. "Didn't you hear about the funeral? A lot of people are out at the cemetery," she said.
"Oh." I sat a few minutes in abject discouragement. I looked over all our hard work. Then I got up and dragged those things I never wanted to see again across the sidewalk to the "free" pile. Vidya and I carefully boxed my collection of china cups and saucers and a few other things. David hauled them to the back storage room of the cabin to await the day I might have courage enough for another yard sale.
I made $28.60.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She finds, upon her return, that things are a little different. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)