“Oh look,” my mother says, pointing at a hand-lettered sign taped lop-sidedly to a telephone pole, “a garage sale.” She pauses – beat – beat – for the punchline: “Let’s go buy a garage,” she says, “It’s funny how many people are selling garages these days. Do you have room in your apartment for a garage?” She smiles happily at this witticism of hers, like the proud kid in the nursery rhyme who sticks his thumb in a pie and pulls out a plum.
It’s always the same routine: spring arrives, then summer, and the posters and placards sprout up from the boulevards, untidy and sprawling like the chickweed in my flower-pots. Look closely, though, and it’s possible to see astonishingly delicate white chickweed blossoms, smaller and more precious than I permit myself to admit — how, else, could I bring myself to yank them ruthlessly out of the soil? It’s like that with garage sales, I think, it’s the old adage about “my weeds are somebody else’s roses” (Is that how the saying goes? Somehow I think not. Mom would know).
My mother was invariable with her humour; like a recorded narrative that could be rewound or fast-forwarded to a cue, my mom could be relied on (or even prompted, if the devilry was in me) to come up with a (treasured!?) homily, adage, or corny joke. “Look, Mom,” I say, pointing. “Oh!” she says, smiling, delighted. She pauses, then releases her happy gift to the world: “A garage sale,” she says, “Let’s go buy a garage. The one we have at home is getting a bit shabby.”
As the days shorten into autumn, and the garage sales are becoming less frequent (in direct proportion to the number of rainy Sunday afternoons), I find myself going out of my way to read the signs — sometimes happily augmented with balloons like a birthday party; my mother would have liked that — and feeling a bit deflated if the advertisement is for a ‘yard sale’ rather than the old-school ‘garage sale.’ Although I suspect my mom might have liked to to buy a yard, given the opportunity.