At 12:15pm today, my grandmother died. I wasn’t by her bedside, or even in the same state. I was in my office, waiting for the call I’ve been dreading for the past day and a half.
Several times on this blog, I’ve mentioned my passion for going to yard sales, especially in search of books. I got this love of riffling through other people’s old things from my grandmother, who was an avid connoisseur of yard sales, rummage sales, and estate sales. I loved going to visit her, knowing that we would spend all day Saturday driving around the neighborhoods of Maryville, TN looking for thrifty treasures. She knew all the best neighborhoods, and would always scan the yard sales listed in the local newspaper, looking for the best sounding ones and planning out our entire day beforehand. We would pick her up from her house (a house who’s land backed up right to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park), and she would climb into the car, armed with her newly-purchase purse (95% of the time she had gotten it from a yard sale a few weeks beforehand) and the clipped classifieds section, the best yard sale advertisements circled in pen. From 8am to lunchtime we’d prowl the subdivisions, and then go back out and search for more after lunch. No one had a better garage sale sign radar than she did.
Growing up, it was always my dad who drove. My dad has a tendency to hurt himself, or, he would rile me up enough to where my little-girl fist would somehow find that perfect spot on top of his shoulder. Any time my dad got hurt, it set my grandma off into giggle fits. She couldn’t help but laugh every time he cried out in shocked pain.
Over the years, she gave me many small presents, treasures that she had found at yard sales and knew they were perfect for me. She got me dinosaur figurines and jewelry, books and fancy boxes, beautiful pens and silly notepads. Each thing was special, especially since it only cost twenty-five cents.
Later, my husband took the reins of driving us around, at the same time we drove him crazy. “GARAGE SALE SIGN!” one of us would shout, forcing him to react quickly (his radar isn’t nearly as tuned as ours). It was on one of these adventures with my husband that my grandma said something that has stuck with my husband and me ever since: “Monkey Fuzz.” Where most people would say something like “Ah damnit, lost my lipstick!” she would pipe “Aw, Monkey Fuzz!” in her unique sweet and high-pitched voice. There’s hardly a day that goes by that one of us doesn’t use this playful curse.
One of the first books that I ever picked out for myself was during one of these yard sale excursions with her. It was the fourth book in the Babysitters Club series, Mary Anne Saves the Day. I have bought many books from yard sales since, and I don’t remember where or when. This one was special, because it was my first. I remember that it was an old farm house, shaded by old, mossy trees. And I remember that my grandmother was there.
I continued the tradition of going yard saleing with my grandmother up through my early adulthood, and I would still go with her if I could. I inherited several things from my grandmother (the allergy to penicillin being one of those things), but my love of yard sales is one of the best things she ever gave me. I won’t be able to stop at strangers’ houses looking for cheap stuff without thinking of her. I love her and I’ll miss her dearly.
Mamaw, I hope you’re enjoying all those yard sales in heaven.