Created Tuesday, 20 July 2010 12:57

The Queen of All Yard Sales

My Daughter Unit is currently a college student, busily engaged in picking up credits towards a degree in research biology, and therefore is on a strict budget as far as recreational shopping goes. Still, she enjoys the thrill of the chase, and the flush of victory at finding and locating the perfect object of desire for mere pennies on the dollar. Seriously, it's much more fun, and feels like much more of an accomplishment finding a lovely, unique and tasteful accessory, item of clothing, or whatever - for practically nothing at all. Buying something at full retail now feels like . . . well, not that much fun at all. There's no challenge, it's all too easy, and the penny-pinching Puritan within us also murmurs disapprovingly about what a waste of money that is. And being a freelance writer on a military pension hardly allows me the opportunity to splurge either; so both of us are seriously into yard sales, estate sales, thrift shops, resale outlets, flea markets, and a serious devotee of both the American and British versions of the Antiques Roadshow.

We're not above checking out what's been put by the curb for semi-annual trash-pick up, either. We live in hope that some day, something that we picked up for pennies will turn out to be an Antiques Roadshow show-stopper, like the woman who brought in a collection of rhinestone costume jewelry for appraisal on the Roadshow. She had picked up every one of them at estate sales and thrift shops, never paying more than a few dollars - and a starburst broach in silver-colored metal and clear stones turned out to be platinum set with real diamonds, the size of jelly-beans. The holy grail of the thrift-shopper is something like that; an item of superb quality, jumbled together with the junk. And yes - to find it, you do have to paw through a lot of junk. We didn't find anything like that last Saturday, but we did make out well.

Last Saturday was the day of the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society's annual grand parking-lot rummage sale; a garage sale on steroids, as it were, set up in the parking lot of Rackspace Hosting on Walzem, formerly Windsor Park Mall. (They do this every year.) And of course, the Daughter Unit was so there, having planned and budgeted for weeks, and organized her priorities. A bit after nine, there we were, beating most of the rush - but not the heat of an asphalt parking lot. In July. In south Texas. Of course it's going to be hot, although a few lucky people with tables at the sale had managed to get a spot shaded by the trees at the edge of the parking lot, or remembered to bring a pop-up awning for a spot of blessed shade. Other vendors were holding up parasols or umbrellas for relief from the sun, and as one woman remarked, "There's not enough sunscreen in the world!" The Daughter Unit keeps a case of water in the back of her Montero, for which we were extraordinarily grateful, as we went back to it a couple of times to stash our gleanings, and to rehydrate.

As rummage sales and farmer's markets go, this was well worth the effort: many vendors had collected fairly high-grade stuff from friends and neighbors as well as clearing out their own household of items extraneous to need. The Daughter Unit's best finds were an Eddie Bauer leather carry-all bag (which looked at first glance like a Dooney & Burke) - with only a little wear along the bottom, and an Indiana Glass centerpiece bowl. The Daughter Unit collects antique pressed glass. For me, the prize was a barely-if-ever-used Zorjirushi breadmaker - the older version that does a 1 ½ -pound bread loaf - still in the original box and missing the measuring cups and instruction manual. We got it for 5$. We prefer home-made baked bread, and as soon as we got home, I fired it up. Yumm. Best 5$ spent, ever.