“How much for the Barbies?” a woman hunched over with age asked as she picked up the plastic doll, fiddling with its hair. Our first customer.
“I don’t know,” I said. “A dollar?”
“I’ll give you fifty cents.”
“Great,” I replied.
We held the tag sale with the dual purpose of cleaning out our basement and raising money for Hurricane Sandy victims so the concept of haggling didn’t play into either scenario. I’d take what people offered.
“Do you have any Barbies with long sleeves?” she asked as she tugged on the doll’s dress.
I looked at the dolls lined up on the blanket, so relieved they had any clothes on, remembering how the girls loved to bring them into the bathtub. Naked Barbie indelibly marked on their little girl brains. My thoughts veered to Valeria Lukyanova, the human Barbie who splattered the news all week.
I reminded the woman that Barbie wasn’t known for her modesty. “It’s not like they have Burka Barbie or anything,” I joked.
The woman looked up at me, “Don’t laugh,” she said. “There’s a market for it, you know.” I stopped and considered the market for Burka Barbie. Sounded more like an oxymoron than anything that would end up on the shelves at Toys R Us, but surely Muslim women are curvy and attractive underneath their layers so why not?? Maybe there is a market for it.
“We must have a coat for her somewhere,” I said. "I mean, the woman must get cold."
Josie and I rifled through the toy bins and found a white one with a leopard fur lapel. “Would that do?”
“Oh yes! Perfect,” she said as she grabbed the coat from us and yanked it onto the naked doll. “Do you have anything else?”
Sure enough, we did. We found a nice Western style shirt and a pink sweater. “I’m buying these dolls for an Orthodox Jewish family,” she explained. “This is why I need them to have their arms covered.”
I pictured Burka Barbie next to the Orthdox Jewish Barbie on the shelf. Thoughts drifted to Israel and Hamas fighting. Before I got lost in the warring stereotyping of Muslims and Jews, I went back to outfitting the “blonde bimbo”.
After about fifteen minutes, the woman left with a nice bag of modestly dressed Barbies and we earned about $5.00 for Hurricane Sandy victims. Josie, Frankie and I high-fived one another. This might be fun.
Our next customer was a minister at a church in Hartford. He saw the tag sale sign and came looking to get toys for his church. He works primarily with people who had been drug-addicted and were getting a new start in life. The toys would be for the children of these people. We encouraged him to just take whatever he thought people could use. And he did. We were happy to see the Madeline dollhouse that the girls had loved over the years find a new home even though I felt a pang in my heart as he carted it away.
The man smiled and waved as he left, “The Lord rewardeth those who give. God bless you all.”
“God bless you, too,” we shouted.
Our loot dwindling and only $5 in the coffers, we waited for our next customers. A neighbor visited, looking for books for her boys. I had no idea our children’s book library was so gender-biased! Where were all those DK books, the ones with the dinosaurs that my girls never opened?? After taking the only non-girl-centric books we had, she donated $10.
During the post-lunch lull, I sat amidst all the stuff: furniture we’d collected over the years, household items we’d never used; games; toys; junk.
It looked like our house had vomited onto our front lawn.
It looked like our house had vomited onto our front lawn.
Setting up for the tag sale that morning, Bea couldn’t get away from the house fast enough. She was mortified. “See ya, Mom! Off to the football game!”
Tim, too, struggled with the idea of a tag sale, preferring instead to just toss everything in a dumpster. I said, “Who cares what people think? If people want the stuff, they can take it. If not, we’ll dump it. At least I’ll know we tried.”
Tag sales are strange. You do feel a bit exposed as people you don’t know come to your house and look through your junk for their treasure. But I had no idea how beautifully strange this tag sale would be.
There was the man who bought the three stuffed animals for his cats. Said they fight and hiss at each other too much. He was hoping the stuffed dogs would distract them because he gets so annoyed by their fighting. I told him that only the television stops my kids from hissing at each other.
He explained that he saw the tag sale sign on his way home from bringing his neighbor to work, which he says he’s been stuck doing now for four years and doesn’t know why. “Every day, I bring her to work.”
“I don’t know, but I do.”
Then there was the family who just moved here from Kansas. Mom and three boys. So lovely. Her oldest played soccer with the kids on our front lawn for about 30 minutes. Nate was his name. Loved meeting them.
Cannot forget when the beat-up van with one duct tape window pulled up and out popped a smallish, Spanish-speaking man with a bright smile. After an abundance of misunderstanding, I remembered him as the same man who had taken a bike we’d put out onto the curb a few years ago. It was so nice to see him again. He loved the bike with the baby seat on it. Then he said he gave it to his neighbor who also enjoyed it. At least, that’s what I thought he said.
He looked around and decided to take the metal furniture. I think he was going to sell it for metal scrap. Again, I wasn’t sure.
He asked, “How much?”
I explained about it being a donation. He tossed all the change he had in his pocket into our donation jar and loaded up his van with the furniture.
And, of course, I will not forget the guy who bought our gold mirror. He asked if I could please get it to reflect back to him someone who wasn’t ugly or old. He joked about how people said he looked like Tyrone Power. "I tell them Tryone Power is dead! And then they say to me, ‘You look dead!'"
Disappointed that when he looks in the mirror he has no idea who’s looking back at him, he asked me to change the glass. We laughed and he handed me $5 for the mirror. He also prayed over our house and for those living inside of it and for Israel to win the war.
In the end, this tag sale raised about $82 for the Hurricane Sandy victims, but more importantly, it raised a level of awareness in my family that people in general are very curious and wonderful.