going once, going twice…

This weekend was…interesting. And it started with a bang.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been helping my dad prepare for a garage sale. Our first joint business endeavour. On his side of the garage? Practical household items, home furnishings, appliances, and kitchenware. On my side? Just the opposite. A lifetime of frivolous purchases and overly-nostalgic keepsakes. And loads of immaculately-kept action figures.

But it was time to wipe the slate clean. For the most part. Truthfully, most of the “work” I was doing over the last few weeks was deciding what to sell, what to throw, and what to incorporate back into my already-bursting shelves. It was a tedious process, going through every scrap of paper, every gumball machine toy. Mooning over it for a minute, remembering where it came from, what importance I’d assigned to it all those years ago, then not-so-ceremoniously depositing it in one of three piles.

It certainly helped that this was the most broke I’d ever been. With my old job winding down and my new job kicking in, I knew it was the perfect time for a garage sale. I’d be less precious and more cutthroat. Once the paychecks started rolling in, I’d be more inclined to continue hoarding.

But this “exit interview” sorting chewed up most of my time. Which was probably why I ran out of time to actually set up shop and price everything. Though it may have been a waste of gas, I decided to take a bonus trip to my hometown and hammer out some last minute setup, drive back in time for my night shift, only to wake up early the next morning to start the sale.

This is about when I blew a tire. (That’s the bang. Get it?)

Maybe blew is a strong word. After all it wasn’t like I was fishtailing down a major freeway or anything. In fact, it was more like a slight rumbling led me to pull over on a mostly-quiet farm road where I discovered a flat. It was probably a slow leak from a pothole I’d hit on an earlier trip. (I try to pretend like it wasn’t directly caused by the garage sale. Makes my bottom line seem worse.) My dad had to come rescue me. I learned what a false sense of security having a jack and a spare in your trunk is. Not only were the tools completely inadequate for changing my tire, the spare itself was flat. Luckily, my dad saw that coming and brought all the necessary gear to act as my pit crew. Under the noonday sun, with a record heat index, I watched the strongest man I know fix my flat.

So instead of working on the sale prep, I found myself scrambling to track down some odd-sized tires so the local auto garage could put them on my car. (Did any of you actually think I could do that myself? Grow up. I had to call my dad to change my flat tire, for crying out loud.) By the time everything was ironed out, I had about an hour to get the tables set up, my stuff organized and priced. But I grossly underestimated the small town hunger for a garage sale. Cars were pulling up left and right, people snooping through my belongings, asking howmuchhowmuchhowmuch??? I was already pretty frazzled, and the questions weren’t helping. I was having flashbacks to the Hollywood Video liquidation where you couldn’t walk two feet without someone tearing something off the wall and asking how much it cost. It was like a horror movie.

But somehow I managed to get everything out and priced. (Even made 7 whole dollars in the process). Marketing 101 kicked in. I had cool little bins of “25 cents or 5 for $1.” I had Pogs for 10 cents a pop. The Ninja Turtles were separate from the Star Wars were separate from the Ghostbusters. The Transformers were arrayed like the front row of a car dealership. My work here was done. With a satisfied sigh, I left for work, preparing myself for tomorrow where I’d say goodbye to each item as it sold. And anything that didn’t sell, well, fate would be telling me to hang onto it. And maybe, throughout the day, I could hide some stuff at the last second. Fate’s too risky anyway.

I arrived the next morning at 6 a.m. A lady with a van was waiting for me. My dad introduced us. I thought she was there for my Star Wars books, but she had a wad of cash and wanted all of it.

All. Of. It.

Groggy, yawning, barely aware of what was happening, I loaded 32 years of toy collecting into boxes and carried them to her van. I sold my childhood for 160 bucks. Boxes of items I swore I’d never part with. Gifts from my dearly departed mom the day before Mother’s Day. Things that I planned on building a special room for, gone, for a short stack of twenties.

This lady explained to me that her son worked for Boys Town in Nebraska. She would be shipping the toys to him to be given out as gifts and rewards. To children from drug-addicted parents. To children without parents entirely. Kids who quite literally had nothing.

I’ve always fancied myself a toy collector, but I was never one for keeping them in the box. Toys were meant to be played with. To be loved. Not to sit in a climate-controlled display case behind a 40-year-old sitting at his computer refreshing the latest eBay listings. My toys were going to a good home.

The lady ended up shorting me by a fair-sized amount. Maybe she miscounted, or maybe it was a scam. Maybe some of it ended up going to her grandson, and maybe I didn’t give her all of it, okay? (What am I? A saint?) But I’d like to believe that, for the most part, it all went down like she said. An ending straight out of Toy Story 3.

The rest of the sale went smooth. So good, in fact, my dad took me out to lunch. We had a beer and some greasy, delicious, horrible, perfect bar food and dodged around the fact that our little project–our business endeavour–was at an end. Our wallets were a little fatter, our memories a little less tangible. But, for those few sunsoaked hours, we closed some chapters on our lives and, hopefully, started some anew.



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