My Fear of Rummage Sales

Up here in Wisconsin, snow melting means many things. Sap starts running for maple syrup. (YUM!!) Certain men will whip out their summer apparel once it reaches 32 degrees. (Yuck!!) Car wash stations will have a three hour wait time. And people start hauling out the rummage sale tables.

Rummage sale. Garage sale. Yard sale. You know what I mean.

Being the mom of five that I am, I enjoy a good garage sale. An entire bag of clothes for $2? Why, thank you! A Thirty-One bag for a penny? Yes, please.

Oh yes, garage sales are great…. until I am supposed to have one. You better believe there is a story here.

My sister and I (most good stories start this way) decided we both had way too much stuff. Garage sale was in order. My community hosts a city-wide garage sale Memorial Day weekend, so we aimed to put our wares out then.

Having 6-8 kids between us at the time, there was a lot to sort through. Mountains of clothing every where. It seemed a useless endeavor, but we soldiered on determined that there were desperate moms that wanted, nay, NEEDED our used baby clothes.

One friend was nice enough to host all of our kids for an afternoon just so we could work in peace. So helpful! Our own mother wasn’t feeling well, so she was not able to help much at all. And Stephen? Well, he is a conscientious objector to hosting garage sales. He will help when asked, but usually while mumbling something about “no profit margin” under his breath. Whatever that means.

The day before the sale, we gathered together at my home to do some final arranging. My grandma is a type of professional when it comes to hosting garage sales, so she let us borrow some things she had, and what was still missing she knew where to find. One of those things was my aunt’s card table. This will be significant later in my tale.

My sister left later in the evening to get some shut-eye. I got a call from her about an hour later – she’s sick. Stomach bug sick. She would still try to make it, but I may be running this by myself. Okay. No problem. Maybe Stephen can help after he’s done with a fundraiser in the morning…

Christin did show up. She wasn’t feeling great, but we made the best of it. Then I started feeling poorly. Before you know it, we are tag teaming on who gets to take a rest.

Kids? What kids? Oh them… I honestly only remember that they were safe and playing in the back yard. The end. We were just waiting for Stephen to get back.

His return put the wind back in our sales… until he got sick. And as we all know, when a man gets ill, it is 10 times worse than if it is a woman. Scientific fact. So he couldn’t help even if he wanted to. Which he didn’t. Profit margins and all that…

I forgot to mention, Memorial Day weekend in Wisconsin is not a guarantee of good weather. It was damp, but not raining. It was chilly with wind, but the chill and wind were not enough to keep mosquitoes away.

Because the little buggers were out trying to suck any remaining energy we had from our bodies, I decided to get a citronella candle for our money table. My aunt’s card table.

Christin was manning the post, making a sale despite the fact that her body was wracked with nausea and fatigue. She was putting a price sticker on our chart when a gust of wind blew hard. It blew so hard that the flame from the candle started the paper on fire.

We were all taught in school not to hold fire, so she dropped it… on my aunt’s card table. Made of pleather and foam and plywood pulp. The table started burning. We got it out almost immediately, but there was a hole in the table. That’s coming out of our profits…

Not much later, I come out. I don’t remember how it was revealed, but my nephew was running through the front yard in his birthday suit. I appreciate the idea to draw customers in… but it was during this time that our friends showed up. The same friends that had taken the kids while we were setting up. Really, they were angels in jeans and t-shirts.

These guys stuck around keeping the kids busy until we could close up shop. Saved our lives and prevented our children from becoming wards of the state. After we took out the money for our ad and the table we had to replace, I doubt we each made $20. What was Stephen saying about profits again? I probably should have listened.

This nightmare of a rummage sale is why it has taken me the better part of a decade to attempt it again. I plan to this year armed with the knowledge that disaster will strike and I need to call it a day at the first sign of it. And profits? We don’t need no stinking profits! Though it would be nice…


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