<< home

day by day: a blog

July 15, 2009

garage sale

garagesale.jpg We'd never done it before. Put all of our gross, dusty, possessed, mistaken innards out there in the front yard for everyone to drive past, to handle, inspect, ponder, hold up, toss down and smirk at. I felt as if we were posting a series of candid snap-shots taken by a camera concealed in our bathroom mirror, blown up to more than life-size and now spread in duplicates across the garage doors for the world to contemplate. But in a way this was worse than nakedness, the frailness of the body, because this was about something deeper, subtler, more damaging. It was about our relationship to money and things, the weakness of the psyche.

The sun roasted me as I sat there on Sunday for three hours in an unwanted chair, wondering with self-approving irony, if anyone would make an offer for me. Probably not.... With my clenched spirit and my hard shadow spread across the lawn, from time to time I politely spewed clich├ęs with a smile: enduring, and imposing, a mind-numbing conversation, all in the ultimately unsuccessful effort to (figuratively speaking) cut my losses on a broken-down breadmaker we long ago bought on impulse from the local GoodWill and never really used.

Three impressions stay with me in the aftermath. First, the tear-inducing pathos of discarded clothes. My wife's skirts, my kids' baby jackets and tiny pairs of pants. Their shoes. Her shoes. And... and. I wanted to kneel down amongst the gawking bargain-hunters, raise the fabrics to my face like holy relics and weep as I breathed in the memory-fragrance of those familiar colours and textures.

Second, the tormenting feelings of guilt and embarrassment -- and shock -- I experienced at silently being forced to admit to myself and everyone else how much junk we own. And what that says, or what I fear that people will think it says, about me. The bag of grout, the black plastic sack of defunct lightsabers, the toy fire-engine with one wheel missing, the skis with blunt edges -- as I laboriously toted each of them to the sidewalk, I felt like a squinting, Dantesque hunchback on the lower slopes of Purgatory, working off my abysmal and denaturing sin of covetousness by being forced to carry for a thousand years in a figure of eight (or of infinity) the tawdry manifestations of my greed.

Third, the crazy hammer-blows fate inflicts as it beats at us, like a red-faced farrier driving nails into a hoof, pounding the lesson of humility, though never soon enough, into our thick skulls. I could hardly believe the psychological frailty, the diminishment and batteredness and nervousness, of so many of the middle-aged people who wandered slowly through our middle-aged cast-offs and boxes. It was as if, men and women alike, these muttering, paunchy wraiths had all tottered slowly back from a terrible war to be here today. Only this war was conventionally known as their lives' "best decades".

We sold a bit of stuff, we made a bit of money (I can feel the soft, untidy roll of bills wadded in my pocket as I sit here now). Afterwards, we carted much more off to the GoodWill objects-cemetery . The bigger things we left out front hoping that in the night, while we slept, the "raccoons" would take them away. It is over. It will happen again.

One thing that it took me some time to realize and that I can still hardly believe or understand -- in spite of all my gruff, paternalistic exhortations to the family before the sale to "throw it out!", I barely put more than a single, slender book from my own overflowing, repulsive encumbrances and ranges of stuff down on the sidewalk for people to see and touch and bid for or reject.

I think it means that, sometime, the lesson will have to be repeated, its implications faced. From this point on, life may be a garage-sale of the emotions.

Posted by njenkins at July 15, 2009 01:50 AM

With the exception of interspersed quotations, all writing is © 2007-09 by Nicholas Jenkins