My mother knew the value of a dollar.
Every Saturday morning when I was a child she'd pile my siblings and me into the back of our old brown station wagon and off we'd go for a morning of rummage sale-ing. There was nothing like the simple joy of having a crumpled dollar bill in my pocket as I sorted through bins and boxes, looking for treasure. A pretty piece of jewelry, a dog-eared Archie's comic book, most anything would qualify. I never knew what the day's search would yield. That was the fun of it.
As I grew older I got out of the rummage sale habit, stopping only at the occasional flea market, because who had the time? But in these days of economic upheaval, when every penny counts, I'm back at it with a vengeance. I'm a flea market fool. A bargain hunter extraordinaire. A rummage sale diva.
This summer I spent Friday mornings making the rummage sale circuit in my small town. Since time is as valuable as money, I've learned a few tricks of the trade. I never "sale" aimlessly. First I do a drive-by. I can usually tell at a glance if the sale is worth my time. Tables filled with baby clothes, fishing gear, and chipped coffee cups are probably not a good bet, so I “sale” on by. If I see a table full of books, it's a no-brainer. The savvy diva knows that paperbacks can be had for a quarter, and hard cover books for buck. I've found that it's a fun and inexpensive way to replenish my TBR pile.
Clothes are next on my list. I picked up some real beauties this summer, the steal of the season being a hand knit vest patterned with rust colored leaves and tiny brass buttons shaped like acorns. The price? One dollar. Growing up with two older sisters, I'm no stranger to hand-me-downs. I'm not too proud to wear some other woman's castoffs, as long as they're in terrific shape. I also like to find unusual serving dishes. When I'm invited to a holiday party or a special get together, I like to take along a fabulous party dip. I leave the serving dish behind as a gift for the hostess.
Tangible treasures aside, some of the best rummage sales I went to were those where I bought nothing at all, but came home with a headful of ideas for my stories. Truly, garage sale ladies are among the most fascinating people on earth. I have found inspiration for characters in the gum-snapping granny who literally tore a book of fairy tales out of my hands. In the young mother, down to her last ten dollars, haggling for a better price on school clothes for her children. I met a recent divorcee looking for good, solid furniture for her new apartment. Stories are like birthdays. Everyone has one. And they're usually more than happy to tell them to you, if you only take the time to listen. One sweet old lady was moving to a senior citizen home and had to sell her canning jars and her collection of Kenny Rodgers LPs. She tugged so hard on my heart strings that I broke the cardinal rule of sale-ing. I bought something I didn't need. Loading the box of records into my car, I promised to give them a good home.
Fun? You bet. But mind you, rummage sale-ing is not for the faint of heart. You have to be prepared to get your hands dirty. When it comes to bargains, you gotta know when hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em. No matter how great a deal that box of tangled up Christmas lights might seem, you have to know when to walk away. And know when to run. You never count your money while you're standing at the table. For as every diva knows, there'll be time enough for counting all those wonderful rummage sale treasures when the dealing's done.
Abandoned buildings. Restless spirits. Love that lasts forever. These are a few of multi-published author M. Jean Pike's favorite things. A professional writer since 1996, Ms. Pike combines a passion for romance with a keen interest in the supernatural to bring readers unforgettable stories of life, love and the inner workings of the human heart. She writes from her home on a quiet country road in upstate New York.
Her novels include The Winds of Autumn, Waiting for the Rain (Champagne Books Novel of the Year 2007) Heatherfield, In The Shadow of the Dragonfly, Shadow Lake, and Whispers in Autumn (Black Lyon Publishing.)