Saturday, October 13, 2007

Life is Like a Yard Sale

By Keith Fisher

She climbed out of her car and stepped up to the first table, not knowing what treasures she would find there, or how much they would change her life.

My wife and I have been hoping to have a yard sale all summer. With the press of day to day activities, and booked weekends, we never quite got the chance. When she, who must be obeyed, came home with a couch and love seat from her mother’s house, she decided it was time. I returned from my camping trip and heard the edict: "We are having a yard sale this weekend!"

She scrambled, and I survived on four-hours of sleep per day while getting ready for the big event. We hoped it would clear our house of clutter and perhaps, bring financial rewards. I also put my writing projects on hold. Now my head feels like my house, stuffed to the rafters with ideas for new projects, waiting for the chance to be displayed in the yard sale of an unpublished book.

During my forced vacation from writing, I discovered that even though I’ve missed it, I felt relieved from the daily word counts, and the work of polishing submittals.
When our yard sale began, my writer’s heart discovered a bag full of metaphors and similes. I watched a young mother sorting through my daughter’s old clothes, and asking what the prices were. I looked at her selections and realized we had also purchased most of those items from yard sales, and our prices were pretty much the same. Life had completed one of those endless circles, giving purpose to our existence on earth.

Many of the standard character types attended the event. There was the successful businessman who drove up in a pickup that cost more than my first house. He was appalled that we wouldn’t drop the price on the antique Christmas tree ornaments.

The old man, who wanted the brand new, never used, hole-saw set but offered seventy percent of the already rock bottom price. He dropped the item and stormed off when we wouldn’t go that low. One woman surprised me when she gave us more than the quoted price. "I like your prices," she said. Also there were two young men who said, "Stop the car dude," They jumped out to purchase two wigs and provided a comedy show for my daughter and her friends.

The big lesson I learned is how much we, as a society have changed since I was a young man fresh out of high school. In those days, people rented until they saved enough for a down payment on a home, they waited to purchase furniture until they could afford it, and they used yard sales or discount stores to help make ends meet. Today, many kids grow up thinking they are somehow entitled to everything. They wouldn’t be caught dead at a yard sale, and a used anything should be thrown away.

Today, used refrigerators have no more purpose than to take up space in landfills or to store apples against the winter. At least the latter is a worthwhile purpose. Of all the things I gleaned from the yard sale, perhaps the most important, were the feelings of joy in remembering the precious moments of my family’s life. Like when someone purchased a toy that Santa brought for my daughter’s second Christmas. The tune it played drove me crazy then. Now the tune brings happiness in remembering, and the toy went to a good home with another baby who loves it.

Last week I promised I would answer the challenge of Tristi Pinkston’s tag, but I wanted to give a writer’s tip. I was plotting a book in my head the other day and remembered the way the Titanic movie was written. It’s a story told from the point of view of the old woman. However, for continuity, there were other points of view that needed to be told.

I wonder how it would read if the script was a book and we didn’t know the story. We would read about the old woman remembering then suddenly, switch to the poker game and Jack’s point of view. Without the visual explanation, the reader might be left to wonder who the character is. Perhaps the old lady was once a poor man trying to get to America.

I wrote a story that begins with one character remembering in the prologue then switches to third person omniscient and introduces other characters in the normal way. I was afraid the continuity would suffer. It has been a struggle to transition point of view, but even though the whole story has been told in one character’s Point of view, I think I did it in an acceptable way. I’ll let you know how it turns out, or perhaps you can tell me when it’s published.

Good luck with your writing. See you next week.

3 comments:

Tristi Pinkston said...

That's the bad thing about yard sales -- when you do have something of value, people expect you to accept a junk price on it just because it's a yard sale. Good for you on not taking the lesser price -- hang on to the stuff and try again later. You could probably sell it through the newspaper, too, and come out ahead.

Keith Fisher said...

We did okay actually. the clothes got wet, so did we.

AJ Chase said...

My husband and I were talking about this when a cousin of his went broke buying a brand new house somewhere in the Utah Valley even though they were offered an older house by another relative at a considerably lessened price because they wanted something new.

Where did this sense of entitlement come from? We want what our parents have but unlike them we don't want to wait thirty years to get it. We want it now.

We bought our home with a VA loan so no down payment was required but we buy all of our furniture and housewares at yard sales and thrift stores and I spend my days dreaming of a new couch. The American dream is not the ability to have what ever we want the minute we want it, it's to make our children's life just a little better than our own. And when we overextend ourselves to get life as we expected it to be we take away more and more of that chance away from our children.

Anyway, stepping off the soapbox...