Readers of my personal blog will know that at present I am doing much handwringing over Big Life Decisions of the Leaving America for Britain variety. Nonetheless, I can't read a delicious book like Bruce Littlefield's Garage Sale America and not feel like it is a testament to so much that I would miss once we are gone. Car Boot sales, the slightly glum British equivalent of the Garage Sale, involve early wet mornings surrounded by lots of other families who have lugged their "knick knacks" to a school playing field. I should know, as I seem to remember sitting in front of our open trunk and watching my brother's eyes glisten as his various Star Wars figures get carted off.
Actually, it was not that bad, and there is nothing quite like an open air Junk/Antique Market in England, but there is something about a Saturday morning Garage Saling in the midwest that is infinitely more fun and quintessentially American, and it's this quality that Littlefield conveys so well in his gorgeously illustrated book.
Part primer for erstwhile garage-salers and shoppers, part cultural analysis of an intriguing popular phenomenon, Garage Sale America taps into why people like me (and the neighbors I drag out of bed on a Friday morning to ride shotgun) get all of a twitter about a decent garage sale. For I, my friends, am an "anthropological warrior," and on Saturday mornings May thru September, you can quite often hear me roar.
"..each Saturday morning around the country... anthropological voyeuristic warriors pour themselves thermoses of coffee, grab their maps, circled newspapers, and fistfuls of dollars, and set out for an archeaological dig through the soils of popular culture. "
Most definitely. What he said.
I also enjoy a couple of donuts. You know. For stamina.
Garage Sale America is cheeky, informative, and insightful. It taps into what it is about wading through other people's junk that makes garage-salers tick. For me it's about finding a bargain, and being able to brag unattractively over how I managed to score a nearly new child backpack carrier for 5 bucks, and the same item would cost $85 dollars retail.
It's about wading through boxes of childrens books and know that this slightly tarnished version of Franklin Rides a Bike or Good Night Moon will go to a new home. (I am that way about books, you see--I can't abide seeing them discarded).
It's about ransacking through crates of plate silverware and polishing up that tarnished serving spoon at home, and feeling the sense that I have discovered the quintessential diamond in the rough...
Boxes of old postcards. Faded kodak images of The Tower of London, circa 1969, posted by Barb and Vern as they took their long-anticipated European vacation years ago "England is a ball!" Vogue Knitting Patterns from the 70s; Gardening Magazines from the 20s. Lush.
OK. Garage Saling brings out the romantic in me. And Littlefield more than gets it. As he says, the "experience of finding just the right thing for just the right price is emotionally rewarding, economically clever, and environmentally sound." It's about stories, it's about nostalgia, it's about treasuring and reinventing the past.
It's also about getting What to Expect When you Are Expecting for one dollar. (Because, who wants to pay full retail for that?)
Garage Sale America is extremely readable. Fun to dip into while your kids happily play with the Thomas Trains or Bouncing Tigger that you scored for only a couple of bucks from the "good" neighborhood across town... I would certainly recommend the book to any Garage Sale addict, not only because it provides tips and design suggestions for salvaged materials, but because you might just recognize yourself in the stories Littlefield recounts, and enjoy a small grin to yourself. Next thing you know, you'll be gripped by a renewed sense of vigor, and start obsessively scanning the paper for sales before hotfooting it to the estate sale across town with "antique glass, books, and dinnerware... No Early Birds..."