Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One Family's Trash is Another Family's Treasure!

Posted by: Jenn Latino
The madness on college campuses continues this week but that hasn’t stopped my friends in higher education from joining the fight to find a cure for breast cancer. The busiest man on campus at SC is Andy Shaffer, our bookstore manager. In the midst of the chaos, Andy took a moment to send me a note and donation to honor his mother, Sandi Shaffer, who is an 8-year breast cancer survivor. Andy included a quick note about his mother’s strength: She had a mastectomy in June of 2002 and danced with me at my wedding two weeks later. I continue to be amazed by the strength of the many women, like Sandi, affected by this disease. Team New Kids is honored to walk in recognition of Sandi.

Another donation came from Joan & Barry McLendon. Joan is a friend who I met while working at JCC. As the director of admissions, Joan is wildly busy in August preparing to welcome new students. She took a break from the craziness to send some support my way.

I had a laugh out loud moment when, just 1 minute after our August 15th payday deposit, a donation turned up from Jane Arrowsmith. Jane is a former intern from our office who recently joined the full time ranks at USC. Jane dipped into her first paycheck and sent some my way. Thanks, Jane! And, welcome to the world of post graduate school employment.

When I am walking the streets of the neighborhoods of Columbia (or Raleigh, or Fayetteville, or Decatur…) I have plenty of time to think, take in the scenery, and often become bored. I can only sing Beyonce at the top of my lungs 2-3 times before the lyrics just lose their gusto and the view of my surroundings distracts me from the funky beat. Saturday walks, while dreadfully long these days-14 miles this week-are often the most exciting because my routes take me out of my familiar neighborhood roads and there is the greatest opportunity for people watching. On an early Saturday morning, there are many more neighbors outside doing yard work, power washing a house, washing a car, playing with their kids, or, on a jackpot Saturday, hosting a yard sale!

Yard sales were a familiar sight beginning very early in my life. My earliest memories are of Friday morning yard sale excursions with my grandmother, Aurelia and her best friend, Gulianna. They were quite the Italian duo! In those days, Friday was the best day to go yard sale-ing (yes, it is a verb). It was like a preview day or a soft opening. The “stuff” was fresher and less picked through than the morning craziness of Saturday morning. The adventure began early-really early! They would cruise the classified ads before dawn and after a quick breakfast at Hardees (breakfast at Hardees was a treat for the Latino girls reserved for yard sale Fridays and after every trip to the dentist) we were on our mission. My grandmother and her friend knew every street in every neighborhood in Fayetteville. From Cottonade to Evergreen Estates, there wasn’t a cul de sac they hadn’t spent time cruising. Their method was more streamlined than Henry Ford’s assembly line and I was always thrilled to ride along in the back seat, dodging the ashes and embers of their cigarettes as they drifted toward me through the rolled down windows. Kindergarten put a full stop to our Friday escapades. Stupid kindergarten.

The Latino/Cox families weren’t just yard sale goers. We were hosts! Every year, as the weather became just cool enough to signal the approach of fall, we dragged the raggedy folding tables from the storage building behind Go-Go’s house to the driveway and set up our collection of wares. My parents’ parents lived on the same street, 10 houses apart. Yard sales were a family affair. Both families would gather boxes of crap, I mean outgrown treasures, and line them up on the tables. Shoes were lined up on the driveway beneath the tables, books went in boxes organized by price point, and clothes hanging on the frame of the back yard swing. Yes, we removed the swing and used the frame as a hanging rack. My job was to coordinate the sophisticated labeling process. Even at age 6, my handwriting was neater than Joyce’s and she was never going to get up as the awful hour necessary for yard sale preparation. The labeling process required me to sit behind the administration table (where the cash box and the doughnuts were housed) and rip small pieces of masking tape. I lined up the tape along the edge of the table and waited for a family member to yell out a pricing amount. I noted the amount on the tape then included their initials and ran it to the appropriate parent, aunt, grandparent, or neighbor, to secure their item.

Taking the dictation for the yard sale set up was a huge responsibility and I took great pride in my job:

Mom: 25 cents. LL
Me: Got It! (with a doughnut in my mouth mumble) Here I come!

Bunkie: 10 cents. SG
Me: Done! Here I come!

Once everything was labeled and the sale was underway, I got to help with the record keeping. When someone would purchase an item, it was my job to remove the tape and place it in the appropriate column of our legal pad. Every “seller” had a column and at the end of the day, we would add up the columns and pay the appropriate family member their earnings for the day. Adding the columns was almost as fun as the initial labeling process. I would add the columns over and over, making note of any increases since the last time I added. (I was also better at math than my late sleeping sibling.)

Who wouldn’t envy this job? It wasn’t a thankless job. It was actually quite lucrative. There were two methods for my personal gain.

1. My grandparents and aunt would always let me take anything I wanted from the sale table. As long as the initials weren’t “LL” I was given first dips at filling my grocery bag with treasures. Most of the things from my grandma’s house were things that I had seen her purchase from other yard sales during our Friday morning adventures. But, my aunt always had the best stuff. Items marked with “SG” were sure to be a fun like books and ceramic miniature dogs. I never went home without at least as much junk as we arrived with. But it was different junk than what we had contributed and was perfect for entertaining me until the next sale when the cocker spaniel that was missing a leg would return, this time with an “LL” on the tag.

2. At the end of the day, as we boxed up all the remaining stuff, my family members would compensate me for being such a great helper. This could turn out to be a nice supplement to my allowance. Boxing up my aunt’s leftover books and helping her to her car: 50 cents. Carrying Auntie Lou’s jackets and slacks back to her house across the street: $1.00. Stacking the 6 ashtrays that didn’t sell and returning them to their storage drawer in Go-Go’s kitchen: 25 cents. One by one my relatives would sneak a little silver into my pocket always with a high amount of praise for how mature I was to be able to add so well and what great customer service I provided to our shoppers.

As a thrifty adult, some of my greatest purchases continue to come from yard sales. My kitchen table, where I wrote my dissertation a few years ago, authored a text book last year, and now continue to sit at and grade papers several nights a week, was a $10 find that Bunkie discovered as I was making my move from FL to SC. $10 for a kitchen table + 2 chairs!! Joe and Linda bought 2 matching chairs for $40 making the table and 4 chairs set $50! What a steal! And, I swindled two family members and scored the whole set for $0! I suppose old habits die hard.

So when I am out walking on a Saturday, and I see a sign on a telephone pole that indicates a sale is up ahead, I can’t help but pick up the pace a little. Like a song you haven’t heard in a while, but the words come right back to you; or a bat light calling for the Gotham City hero, I just can’t help but cruise the tables of my neighbors, considering their junk. I am limited in what I can carry away from a sale when I’m walking. It’s hard to drag a homemade ice cream maker or a DVD organizer 6 miles back to Red Cedar Dr. But, smaller items that can fit tidily in my backpack are fair game! I always pack $5, just in case!! You never know when a ceramic cocker spaniel, with one foot missing, might catch your eye.

My nostalgia for the art of yard sale-ing will soon be rejuvenated! We are hosting a yard sale, Latino/Cox family style, on September 18th! Our labeling process will probably be a little more sophisticated but the treasures will still be plentiful. All of the proceeds will go to Team New Kids on the Walk! I hope this story inspires you to clean out a closet or two, reorganize your garage shelves, or finally get around to boxing up the Wii games that your kids haven’t touched in 2 years. When you do, send your junk our way! We’ll include it in the sale. Anything that goes makes a contribution to our fundraising efforts. Anything left at the end of the sale will be shipped off to Goodwill.

If you live in Fayetteville, we can coordinate a pick up any time between now and the sale. LL and SG are hosting the sale and they are happy to meet up with any crap, I mean treasure, donors. If you are in SC, I am happy to take your gear up the Interstate and add it to the tables and boxes and shoes in a row.

Happy Back To School to everyone! Fingers crossed, this will also be the start of a cool fall and an enjoyable final 64 days before the Atlanta 3-Day!

1 comment:

  1. And, if you're in the Knoxville area, or will be around September 4, bring your treasures to Mandie! I can pass them on to Jenn at the engagement party! :)