Priceless treasures found at my own yard sale

Posted Aug. 25, 2008, at 7:38 p.m.

I had wanted to spend my last moments on earth surrounded by my loving family in the drive-up at the local Dunkin’ Donuts, but have changed my mind; when death is reeling me in and about to net me, take me to a yard sale. We had one this weekend at my house and it was more fun than a case of tennis balls at a convention for Labrador retrievers.

The fun begins with the professional yard salers who case your sale by slowly cruising by your house the night before to see if you have already put the big stuff out on the lawn. I like to mess with their heads by putting out something really good that is not actually for sale.

Those same people are probably also the early birds, the ones who want you to let them in early on the day of the sale even though you have surrounded your house with multiple signs that say, “We start at 8 a.m. sharp — early birds will be duct taped and sold!” The more they whine about getting in early the more fun it is to prevent them from putting even one toe over the property line.

The best thing about the yard sale, however, is being able to match just the right item with just the right person for just the right price; everything else may be selling for pennies on the dollar, but the perfect sale to the perfect customer is priceless. The electronic foot massager we were selling for three bucks, for example, went for free to some woman who thought her friend could use it to help relieve the aches of feet swollen from the complications of cancer. Heck, I would have paid three bucks just to know we helped that customer help her sick friend. I hope I have friends like that when I am in trouble.

The down-and-out guy picking through the neighbor’s trash for returnable bottles stopped by when he saw we were giving a bunch of stuff away for free. He took a warm winter hat, two pairs of old pants in good shape, a coffee cup and two bags of returnables I had sitting in our garage. What was worthless to me meant a little warmth and probably a meal to him, a deal neither of us could beat with a stick.

We sold roller blades (and wrist guards) to moms and gangly teenage girls, and cuddly stuffed animals to cuddly little kids. Two toy pony stalls I made for my daughters one Christmas went to children who will fill the stalls again with plastic ponies brought to life by vivid imaginations. Some extra tools I had were sold (very reluctantly) to other guys whose wives rolled their eyes because women just do not understand a real man is always one (or 50) tools short of a complete collection.

The old National Geographic magazines went to a high school art teacher always on the lookout for cheap art supplies for her students. You know darn well Michelangelo would have just spray-painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel if he had her budget for art supplies. The guy who bought the box of home improvement books also bought himself real trouble; his wife was already looking through them for ideas as they walked back to the car.

Me? I got a day full of memories.

Women stopped by to remind me I delivered their children years ago when I was a doctor in training. A friend told me of her Dad’s last wonderful days before a gentle death, and a young woman with a pug dog named Gia told me about pug parties. I met several new neighbors, and told a friendly guy the chair I was giving away for free that had a hole in the seat was perfect for him as long as his butt was too big to fall through.

I could have shopped anywhere, but nowhere could I have found anything worth more than I did this weekend in my own yard.

Erik Steele, D.O., a physician in Bangor, is chief medical officer of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems and is on the staff of several hospital emergency rooms in the region.

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