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getting and spending

Yesterday was our garage sale, the last I will ever hold. My grandfather Mike Kaplan was a shrewd, successful businessman in the schmata trade. His granddaughter inherited from him love of clothing and cloth, and turned this love into an ability to spot and buy great stuff at second-hand stores. But as for the all-important part of Mike’s talents – business, selling, making money – she inherited no skills at all from her savvy grandfather.

So luckily my daughter and her friend Holly took over yesterday morning, after we’d risen at 7.30 and set up our second-hand clothing and junk store in a neighbour’s wide front yard. It looked great – some of the dozen coats suspended from the iron fences around the yard, some 15 jackets hung on a pole between two ladders, scarves and vintage tablecloths on a twisted piece of wood stuck in the fence, books, pants and sweaters in bins, handbags suspended from the fence posts. It’s when people started to trickle in that my incompetence arose. On the one hand, I’m desperate to get rid of the stuff and could give it all away; on the other, I remember where it came from and how hard it was to get it and want to receive its proper worth. So the staff took over (earning their 50% commission) while I went home and brought back coffee and bagels to keep them going.
The Cabbagetown Festival, which runs all this weekend, is a marvellous neighbourhood event; Parliament Street is closed down, Riverdale Farm runs special events, there’s a huge crafts fair, all the local restaurants put tables outside, and every other house holds a garage sale. The thought of a French neighbourhood celebration involving households putting their goods on display on the sidewalk, for sale – non, absoluement pas possible. But here, people stockpile their unwanted stuff all year for the sales. I have never had a sale before because I love wandering around seeing what’s going on – the parade, the dog show, the music, the food – and, yes, quite possibly buying some of my neighbour’s junk to add to my own. I bought my Mark Rothko that way – well, a canvas with bold mauve stripes that looks remarkably like a small Mark Rothko, painted by one of my neighbours, sold for $20. I staggered home once with a wicker sofa. When my kids were small, $10 would keep them busy for the whole weekend, buying food on the street and toys and books.
It was a long hard slog yesterday but we made almost $600. The stuff on sale probably cost twice that, but the point is, a great deal of it has gone. I did have to take back the Armani raincoat and several other treasures that didn’t sell, and I changed my mind about a couple of pairs of shoes I’d put out – these are great shoes, why would I sell these? But at 4, the girls and I hung or dumped all that was left outside the house and began to clean up. People went on shopping, and we made an additional $12 after closing down. Finally I put out a sign, “Help yourself,” and when I left at 5.30 to go to an annual neighbourhood bash, people were picking it over. Some of the pile is still there, but not much.
I will never buy anything again as long as I live.
As the great man said, “Late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.”

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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