garage sale

“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.



my mother and my grandmother shared a birthday.

i say shared but the family story is that Mid, my grandmother, did not like sharing her birthday with her daughter. it could be that she didn’t think that spending her birthday labouring and straining and finally in agony and shit and blood producing a squalling, dependent infant was much fun.

what, no cake?

the truth is, i don’t know what she really thought. was she sullen every time august 6th rolled around, knowing she’d have to produce some kind of kids’ party with balloons and hats and usually some hair-pulling over who got to ride the pony first (was there ever a pony?) and why must the cake be homemade in the heat of summer and look, oh great that kid in corner is barfing up, probably the cake. next year…next year she probably rolled up her sleeves and did it again.  put on a party for her daughter, i mean.

but Mid might have liked it, that’s possible too, family story not withstanding. it’s just possible that Mid said once in jest, oh i hate sharing my birthday with you, my daughter my love, and when she said it she swung her daughter high up in the air and then held her close in her arms and they both laughed and knew that Mid was joking. the best birthday present that Mid ever received was the gift of a daughter, delivered right on time, no ‘sorry i missed your birthday’ card was required. that might have been it.

but i’ll never know. Mid died before i was born, during the time my mother was pregnant with me, and my mother died 9 years ago. their stories are mostly gone.  i am left guessing, and remembering what i can.