God bless garage sales.

For the last year, we (myself & my husband, Mitch, who will be a leading character in several later entries, I’m sure) have been living just outside this small mountain town at the very bottom of Mt. Baker, paying cheap rent on a gorgeous studio and frittering away all the money we saved on rent by paying $2.73/gal. for gas, and burning up gas like it’s going out of style (which, oddly enough, it seems to be doing) commuting 30 miles one way into Bellingham for work (me) and school (Mitch). Eventually, we put together that 2+3 does not equal 4–as in, “cheap rent” + “high gas prices” does not equal “savings.” Also, you could apply this formula to the realization that, well, having a gorgeous place to live does not exactly pay off if you’re never home during daylight hours to enjoy it. Huh.

So, we happened upon this delightful semi-downtown apartment in Bellingham with hardwood floors, big windows, an excessively pretty bathroom–and an itty-bitty kitchen. But the rent is just right, and the location absolutely perfect. ‘Tis everything we ever wanted in an apartment (minus kitchen counterspace).

I started out this move well-intentioned–Sharpie markers in hand, a nice leisurely time period in which to pack–convinced that this would be the one time that our moving might be orderly and, well, manageable. Then I put off packing. And put it off some more.

And then! Suddenly it was the middle of August and there was nothing for it but to implement what I like to call the “Pack now, sort later” technique. Whole drawers landed in boxes, unsorted. Things we meant to take to Goodwill went to the new apartment with us, where we promptly shoved them into a corner and said, “Later. Let’s deal with them later.”

When most of the big boxes were empty, when my books were in one huge mound along the living room wall, when the bed was set up and the bathroom useable, and the kitchen cabinets stocked enough that we could make a quesadilla without incident, we encountered that hideous, new-house question: “Okay, so what do we need?”

As if anyone needs a shower shelf, or a silverware organizer, or coat hangers. As if anyone actually wants to buy coasters.

But all these things found their way onto an actual list, and, thus, into our home. Mind, we are thrifty shoppers, so these items came from places like Goodwill and Deals Only (“We Only Have Deals!”–my favorite business slogan ever) and, oh yes, garage sales.

I love garage sales, and thank God I forget how much I love them or I would have even more shit that I never use. My friend Morgan came over for breakfast this morning with the news: “Did you know that the church down the street is having a garage sale today? A really huge garage sale with lots of nifty things?” Before the coffee grounds had time to settle in the french press, before the oil in the frying pan had time to cool, Morgan & I were the parking lot of Trinity Lutheran, sizing up wine glasses, sniffing throw pillows (you never know), holding $3 pairs of Gap jeans up to our hips…

$13.50 later, I had a full box (and empty pockets) to cart home, in which was a pair of rhinestones earrings–the gold so tarnished it looked black, the rhinestones smoky and dull–that I absolutely loved. The earrings cost me .50, and were gloriously old-fashioned, but not too old-fashioned to have hooks (not clip-ons). When I got home, I tried them on (after swiping them with peroxide, of course, Mom), and how odd they seemed on either side of my twenty-two-year-old face, so much more refined than the thin silver hoops marching up the rest of my ears, but ah well.

I tried to picture the woman who owned them last. Probably in her mid-fifties, digging through the jewelry her mother’d given her years before, setting aside the pieces she loved (the jade cameo, the tarnished wedding band, that simple gold chain), and putting the rest in baggies to take to church on Sunday, for the flea market collection.

What I love about garage sales: the glimpse of someone’s history, the stories that come with each piece.

And, of course, the fact that the stories come dirt cheap.

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