In preparing for our fundraiser yard sale (held last weekend), I decided to go through the many boxes of books that I’ve kept for the huge library that I will one day have.

You know, the one with the shelves from floor to ceiling and one of those cool ladders that swings all around the room on a track in the floor, with cushy leather chairs and warm throws.  Maybe a fireplace and a wetbar hidden in a large armoir.   A huge picture window overlooking the meadow and the great danes racing after each other around the splendid dogwood tree.

Oh, wait, that’s not my dream anymore.  I just want a shack on the beach and an e-Reader!

So, we got a passel of boxes out of storage and I put on my hardest of hearts and tossed book after book into boxes for the yard sale.  I’m never going to read those romance novels that someone gave me, never going to finish that Shelley Winters biography (interesting as it was), I stopped reading those silly “The Cat Who…” books (shiver).  All those damsel in distress books are so repetitive and I feel like I’m reading the same novel over and over with different locations and descriptions for the heroine (plus how many different ways can you describe someone’s ‘throbbing member’, for crying out loud!).  One book had a woman who was cute as a button (or else she’s ravishingly beautiful but, endearingly, she has no clue how adorable she is) with naturally curly hair that grew out dark and then, surprise, turned blonde all on its own.  She didn’t have dark roots, no, its was simply the way it grew out – and nobody ‘understood’ her…snark…

I love to read but I don’t need to keep those books that were my faves in high school – Alastair MacLean and Dick Francis, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein.  There are so many new books to be read, I can’t keep all the old ones. Plus, books that have been around for 30 years tend to smell like…dusty old books… pewww.

Bunch of old books, ripe for recycling...

Those sci fi’s I treasured as a youth?  Yes, I kept a couple of those by Ray Bradbury, Phillip K. Dick, you can still find relevance in them.  They are being turned into movies even now…Blade Runner was one, original title “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”  Another is I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov.  He really was insightful.  Sci fi movies and books still reference his ideas in them.  And another is Total Recall, which is being re-made at this very moment.  That was originally a book by Phillip K. Dick – “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”.

I read an old classic sci fi last fall and I had to work at putting myself mentally back in the old days before cell phones, when computers were the size of your living room and when you actually had to go to a library to look up stuff.  It was awkward.

Other items I’d been saving for years were scrutinized.  Am I ever going to make another pineapple raisin jello salad? Nope, so I don’t need the jello mold.  What about that wok?  OK, I kept the wok.  But what about those holiday platters? Cheap stuff, yard sale material definitely.  The multitude of candlesticks?  Gone!  Coffee mugs?  Gone!  Drinking glasses? Gone!  Vases, sugar/creamer set, cookbooks, doo-hickeys and thingamajigs, gone, Gone and GONE!

I wish I had another week to go through more stuff in the basement!  I’m on a roll!

Back to the books.  At the very, very end of the day on Sunday – we’d packed up all of the non-books and were taking a break before tackling those heavy boxes and a man came by (we get quite a few people wanting to peek into boxes as we’re loading the remnants of the day into the truck to take to the Salvation Army). 

He was dressed in clean pants and a white T-shirt and long scraggly hair with huge gray whiskers (sidenote:  the word ‘sideburns’ comes from Ambrose Burnside, businessman, governor, US Senator, Army General, known for his unusual facial hair – ‘burnsides’ became ‘sideburns’ over the years.)  

Portrait by Mathew Brady

Based on our conversation, he seemed ‘simple’, if you know what I mean.  He politely asked what we were selling and what was the purpose of our yard sale.  We explained it was a fundraiser for our best friend, Kathee, Stroke Survivor (deep voice with lots of reverb and echo).  I told him to feel free to look at the books, since they were all that was left.  There were a lot of books, 50 or more.

He asked what sorts of authors we had and I told him we had mystery, sci fi, romance, fiction, non-fiction and on and on.  He and I ended up talking about favorite authors.  He seemed a very sweet man and took 1 book by each of several different authors that he liked (he didn’t want to be a hog about it) and even took 2 books by new authors he’d never heard of because, as he said, ‘its good to try different authors to see if you like them’. 

He ended up with 2 bags of books and asked what the price was.  I said everything was 1/2 off so the price was $1 for all of them (I would have given them to him – we were going to take them to the Salvation Army, after all.  But I felt he didn’t want charity).  He said with a glint in his eye ‘Oh, I think that’s a bit steep for these books.’   Then he solemnly assured me that he was just kidding. 

You know, conversations like that happen with each yard sale we have.  We met 2 prospectors – yes, they prospect for gold.  1 guy had about 12 claims and was purchasing a couple more – he explained what he looks for and he carries his equipment on the top of his van, pointing to his van across the street.  He even wore a  t-shirt with the name of his prospecting club.  There are clubs for everything!  Here’s one for gold prospecting:  http://www.goldgold.com/

Not just working with a pie tin in a crick... http://www.goldgold.com

The old-fashioned way... http://www.goldgold.com

Ernie Golding bought a couple frames that have multiple spaces for pictures in them – like a collage.  He is in charge of the pictures for his ‘old-timer’ baseball club.   Old-timers who played pro baseball, that is.  And he’s so enthusiastic about it, loves his job.  He was president in 1983 and they just celebrated their 70th year –  The San Francisco Baseball Old Timers Association.  Our old frames were going to display photos of their events and members.  From trash to treasure.  You can find a video of their celebratory lunch here on YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aHJjZdotiw

Some people race in and out of the place and others take their time, willing to talk and share why they love a particular piece.  Like the elderly cancer survivor with a walker who wanted the lap desk – we joked with her about how her son was so good to be helping carry the stuff she bought.  He was ‘back in the will’ she said, with a smile.  The young woman who bought the vintage hats (you want to see some fascinating hats – go here: wwwdorotheasclosetvintage.com  ). 

 There was a cutie pie who bought my old 1992 black booties and a vintage pair of black gloves with little scallops at the hem.  A woman who takes stuffed animals to Mexico as prizes for kids’ bingo games.  A lady whose back hurts her all the time, she wanted the chair massage pad.  The teacher bought kids books for setting up her reading corner and sheets to cover tables at a science station.  A preschool teacher was decorating her room like a jungle – she got a huge stuffed giraffe and ‘The Jungle Book’. 

Each of these people had interesting stories to tell about what they were shopping for and why.  It makes the yard sale so much more than sitting out in our yard with cr*p we don’t want anymore on tables for weirdos to pick through.  It becomes more about us as a community.  Especially when people paid more than the asking price or told us to keep the change – helping us help Kathee, Stroke Survivor (deep voice, reverb and echo).

We get so used to coming home from work and getting into the house without saying a word to anyone else (except, maybe, for that gesture you made at that rude driver) we forget the pleasure to be had in simple contact with our neighbors.  Neighbors used to hang out over the back fence talking about kids and laundry and work and tools.  Anymore, we have an extra privacy trellis on top of our fence so our nosy neighbors don’t peek at us.  And the sound of the kids playing in the Slip-n-Slide gives us a headache.

Ah, those carefree summer days...

How many of us hold block parties in the summertime?  Neighborhood cookie exchanges at Christmas?  Sharing a lawnmower, borrowing a cup of sugar?  You help me build my fence and I’ll help you pave your walkway.  Does that still happen?

I think I hijacked my own post.

Tell you what, next time you see your neighbor, give her a wave.  Run out of sugar?  Go next door to borrow a cup, then go back with a dozen of those cookies you baked.  Noticed that your neighbor’s yard is overgrown?  Mow it for them.  Take the first step and see what develops.  Tell me what happens.

Oh, btw, we raised over $900 in 3 yard sales.  Not too shabby  ;-)