I’ve lived in Appalachia my whole life and if there’s one tradition that has had the most impact on me, it’s the tradition of yard sales and flea markets. As soon as Winter loosens its grip on the region, receding into pleasant springtime, everyone in my neck of the woods starts to feel the itch. Our eyes search the roadsides for spreads and tables laden with dishes and pillows and socks and dollar store figurines. In other places, it may be that being the person to purchase the most expensive purse is a point of pride. In Appalachia, the proudest among us is the person who finds that same purse at a sale for a buck-fifty.
Some of us pack up our cheap finds and set up ourselves at a flea market, making two or three times what we originally paid, though that doesn’t add up to much in the long run. Others market their finds online or rent spaces in antique malls. Still others hoard things up, packing their basements and garages full of used Tupperware and pictures of Jesus, hoping that one day we will be glad that we saved such things.
For my part, I have a compulsive need to stop at every yard sale that I see. I’ve been yard sale shopping since I was tiny. My oldest and dearest toy, a large plastic horse that once was on a rocker or bungee or something of the sort, was a yard sale purchase when I was two years old. The story goes that I cried so bitterly for it, my parents spent their last few dollars at the time to buy it for me.
It never bothered me how many of my belongings came from yard sales. The more you shop at yard sales, the more you realize that it’s the best way to find the coolest things. As a child, nearly all the money I ever came into contact with was spent on trinkets at yard sales and flea markets. I treasured my purchases, proud of everything I salvaged, as if each one was my ticket to becoming a millionaire.
Today, I went yard sailing again. I bought two chairs, a sweater, some funky cat magnets, a bee shaped brooch, a vintage gravy boat, a casserole dish and a tiny bear figurine. What do I need these things for? Well, that part doesn’t matter. The point is, I spent less than fifty dollars on all of it. And I will never be rich, but who cares? You don’t need to be rich if you can buy a vintage gravy boat for two bucks.