September is a wonderful time of year. For many it means back to school and the hopeful return of cooler weather, but for me it means something even better: community yard sales. Isobel and I had planned on having what she calls a Girls’ Day, which means just the two of us hanging out for a period of time ranging from a weekend to a few hours. Strict observance of Girls’ Day is much harder to come by now that Elias is here, but we sometimes manage to observe them during his nap time. Today we had a whole morning and into the early afternoon to ourselves while Anthony stayed home and observed Dude Time.
Our plan was to start the day by visiting the animatronic dinosaur exhibit that had come to town, but because children like to get up earlier than is humanly healthy even on the weekends, we discovered we had two hours to kill before it opened. Normally, in a situation like this we’d go thrifting, but today we were in luck as it was the day of the annual community yard sale. Held in the enormous parking lot of one of the local churches it houses over two hundred vendor spots and is packed with people and wares. I’ve snagged some great finds there before (such as Isobel’s original infamous Pink Purse!), but last year was tremendously lackluster. Even if we found nothing to take home I know Isobel and I would have a good time of it, so off we went.
We arrived early and the sale was as packed as usual. Last year seemed to be crowded with yard sale junk that people were trying to sell for ten times its value, so I was wary, but almost immediately I could see that this year would be different. Isobel even brought a dollar in change of her own money, which she is immensely proud of spending, to choose her own special treat. As part of my mission to indoctrinate her into the joys of thrifting, I always let her choose something special (within reason). I actually can’t think of a time where she’s chosen a toy; she seems to gravitate toward random household items that become fixtures in her imagination play as soon as we get home. Girlfriend particularly has an attraction to fake flowers, as well as anything Christmas-related, and so it was no surprise that she gravitated immediately to a poinsettia bouquet arrangement in the first stall we visited. She also clutched onto a small plush Christmas stocking, the kind you might buy for a pet, and I negotiated both of them for Isobel’s own dollar.
Our favorite stall this year wasn’t a regular yard sale booth nor was it strictly a vintage vendor. Rather it was a blend of the two, run by two friendly Chinese-American women around my mother’s age. Their mother had passed away some time ago, leaving them the contents of what must have been a spectacularly preserved vintage pad. And her closet, oh my god, her closet, nothing but pristine, drool-worthy pieces from the fifties and sixties. Instead of hosting an estate sale, the two sisters did some vintage sleuthing and were selling the wares at places like this. They were newbies when it came to vintage, and very enthusiastic. Their prices rivaled that of an antiques store and our budget was slim, so I was allowed only to purchase one two dollar silk scarf from their extensive collection. The clothes were so great though, and fairly (if somewhat steeply) priced. They weren’t in my size, which saved some agony on my part, but a little piece of me did die for not picking up a stack of these plastic vintage cups ($12).
The clothes were all just amazing, and I heard one shopper remark on how great they were “as far as used clothing goes,” which is probably the most derisive back-handed compliment about thrifting I’d ever heard. Practically my entire outfit that day was made up of used clothing, and I was rocking it. You can tell from the photo above all the amazingness that was packed on to one half of a rack, and there were four. The scarves in the photo alone are enough to haunt me with regret.
One of the greatest things for sale at that booth was a 1950s diner waitress-style apron in bumblebee yellow with four pockets on the front labeled Tips, Complaints, Suggestions, and Compliments. I couldn’t stop talking about it until finally one of the sisters pulled it off the rack and stuck it behind her table to take home with her. I didn’t mean to, but I ended up talking her into buying her own apron.
A recent trend at sales like this is to purchase whole storage lockers that have been forfeited by their owners. I always find this exciting because I don’t shy away from getting my hands dirty and doing a little digging. The surprising things you find are generally also a surprise to the people hosting the sale. Best of all, it’s not personal, so no one says, “Oh, I’m asking more for this because it was one of my favorites” (I don’t care, and neither do you, you’re selling it), and because it’s not personal, everyone is free to laugh at the weird stuff without embarrassing anyone or hurting their feelings.
It is inevitable that in a sale of this magnitude that we find some exceptional specimens of thrift store gore. In fact, a seller actually threatened me with one. I was taking a photo of the framed poster below that I have named Clown Horror when the older gentleman who was running the booth started yelling at me for taking pictures. He stopped, though, the moment he saw I was taking a photo of the clowns instead of his precious framed John Wayne posters. I’m still confused as to why, but that’s a mystery that will remain unsolved. The clown poster looked like something that would go for $5 at a county fair, and the vendor told me I wasn’t allowed to take photos of anything at his booth except for the clown poster. Then he offered it to me for $15, saying he normally asks for $20. I told him we were just browsing and then he told me I could have it for $5 when Isobel shouted out I HAVE A DOLLAR. He then tried to sell it to her for a dollar when she shouted I ALREADY BOUGHT THESE FLOWERS FOR CHRISTMAS. He turned and tried to sell it to me for a dollar. I told him we weren’t interested, grabbed Isobel, and made a hasty escape.
It was the first time anyone so aggressively tried to pawn off their wares on us for so cheaply, also the first time someone tried to convince my five year old to buy something.
Bonding over thrifting, or as we often call it, “treasure hunting” is one of our favorite things to do together, and always makes for a perfect Girls’ Day.