NOTE: Today’s column is a condensed version of a monologue I did in the Sept. 19, 2015 Great Northern Radio Show which re-airs today at 11 a.m. on Northern Community Radio and will be made available as a podcast in coming days.
My wife and I have a term for the decorating style of our home. We call it “Early American Marriage.” Much of the furniture originated from our first apartment together many years ago. The art, the fixtures, the motif — all of it a lazy river floating through the stages of our relationship. The nice thing about this lack of style is that we get a wonderful excuse to never invite people over, which is a comfort to us both.
With our preference for used furniture and the constant churn of stuff associated with our three boys, we have created something of a digestive tract though hearth and home.
Things start upstairs before being banished to the finished basement where the children rule by day in a Lord of the Flies arrangement. After a chair or table has been suitably punished there it heads out to the garage, which is the lower intestine of household objects. It is here where the annual garage sale fodder gathers into a dense ball before being passed into the open doors of our minivan.
Because we live in the woods, we join our cousins in town to sell our wares. That means hauling the junk all the way to Hibbing. We have one day to clear everything out, hoping that none of it has to come back to our place the next day.
This year’s sale held a few weeks ago was no different. We unloaded two vehicles full of stuff at the venue and a little less than one vehicle of stuff had to come back. One of the larger items this year was a blue chair. This easy chair had spent years in a high traffic part of the basement, its arms and seat worn thread-bare by constant child-induced friction. Though still comfortable, and priced to move at $5, the chair simply would not go.
One of the worst things about rummage sales is the judgement of strangers. That’s one of the worst things about life, but also rummage sales. Sure, you might have determined that these items are no longer of use to you, but everyone enters a garage sale believing they’re doing the world a favor. Can you believe it, world? I’m selling my stuff — MY STUFF — at bargain prices!
You want your things to be snapped up by lesser beings, poor hill folk eking out a living in the cat barf refineries outside town. They’ll find your old radio and say, “Janie, Bobby Sue, Darryl, Jamie, Joe Bob, Earl, look! This one has knobs!” You’ll take their quarter. Probably their only quarter. And they’ll go have a better life. Thanks to you.
But what really happens is that people see your old t-shirts and conclude that you must have already had bad taste before you gained all that weight.
So the blue chair did not sell. After the day was done I was asked to drive it down to the Goodwill to donate so we wouldn’t have to haul it home. I looked in the rear view mirror on the way over. The chair looked back at me. This would be goodbye. I pulled up in the alley where three guys were digging through the Dumpster behind the Goodwill. We exchanged greetings as I unloaded the chair. I asked the lady inside where to put the chair and she asked to see it. One look and she said, “No, we can’t take a chair *like that.*”
I bargained. I reasoned. It’s a very comfortable chair, I said. Just put a blanket on it. That’s what we do. Alas, the chair had been rejected as soundly as a transplanted organ comprised of old gum. I turned to the scavengers in the alley hoping they would see an opportunity, but instead they averted their eyes and scattered.
So the chair and I took a drive over to the Salvation Army, where the story was mostly the same. This time I couldn’t even get it out of the van before they shooed us away. In the end the chair came home with us. It was placed in my home office, where it stands out like Donald Trump in a mariachi band, and where this chair will likely stay until we reupholster it or burn it in the yard.
But when I look back on all this, I am struck by the fact that the chair had a better weekend than anyone else in the house. It got to sit out in the sun. It got to go for a ride, cruise downtown. It touched more butts than a sailor on leave and then went home safe. May we all enjoy our twilight years this much.
Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.