Friday, October 2, 2009

Six Degrees of Garage Sale

Dottie's and Bob's Daughter
Dottie and Bob's Wedding Gift Table 1949
Mister Earl c. 1959
Sister Earl c. 1959

Today I was in Orange County visiting my mom, who has been having some health issues. I spent the day running back and forth between her apartment in a senior community and the assisted-living facility where she is at the moment. On one of these trips I noticed a very professional-looking sign saying that there was a garage sale in a nearby neighborhood. It was a Friday afternoon and I figured a sale with such a professional-looking sign would probably be pretty good.

I pulled up to the house and began to look around the driveway, which was filled with all sorts of knickknacks. There seemed to 5 senior citizens presiding over the sale: a husband and wife in their 80s, another couple in their 70s, and another male friend in his 70s. I noticed a framed chalk drawing of a young girl with big wide eyes and picked it up. "We have a drawing just like this," I said. "My sister and I had chalk drawings done one day when we were kids." "That's my daughter, " said the older lady. "She hates that drawing." "Ours were done in San Francisco, at Fisherman's Wharf, probably around 1960," I said. The lady nodded, "So was that." "You're kidding. San Francisco? Fisherman's Wharf?" "Yes, it was a young man who was doing kids' pictures." "I can't believe it," I said, "it must be the same guy. My mom has those drawings of me and my sister hanging in her apartment just down the street."

A few minutes later, the 80-something husband came out from the back of the garage with a watercolor painting of a woman probably in her 30s, who looked like a cross between Dale Evans and Della Street. "Who do you think this is?" he asked me. "It must be your wife," I said. "No, it's my girlfriend," he joked. "Are you selling that?' I asked. "No," said the wife, "I want him to throw it away." "Why don't you give it to your kids?" "They don't want it. I don't want it. What's past is past. I want it thrown away." "How about if I take it?" "No, I want it thrown away." At this point, one of the 70-something men was spiriting it away in the back of the garage, hoping to save it from the trash bin no doubt. A few moments later, the two 70s men called me over and said, "Look at this." It was photos of the older couple's wedding back in the 1940s. There was a photo of the table full of wedding gifts. Just a photo of 1940s appliances would have been worth having. There was some discussion between the older lady and these fellows about whether they should keep her wedding photos or throw them away. The men and the lady were in a struggle over whether her memories should go into the trash or be saved.

"I feel like I just walked into the middle of an I Love Lucy episode," I said. She buried her face in her hands, laughing uncontrollably for several minutes. "Touche!" she said. After a few more comments about the coincidence of the chalk drawings by the same street artist from 45 years ago, I said goodbye, but as I said it, I got an idea.

I went back to my mom's place to get her some shoes to wear at physical therapy and I took the chalk drawings of my sister and me off the wall. After I delivered the shoes to my mom and did a couple errands for her, I returned to the garage sale. I walked up the driveway, picked up the chalk drawing of her daughter, and brought her the three drawings. "Here they are." "Yes," she said, "It's the same eyes. It's definitely the same artist." We then began to talk about how she and her husband were finally selling their house and moving to a retirement home. I pointed to my mom's car, which is covered with scrapes and dings. "We're going to have to take her driving privileges away from her. It's getting too dangerous. Look at that car." "Yes," she said. I'm going to have to give up my license soon too." "It's going to be rough on my mom," I said, "She won't like it." "Tell her if she keeps driving and hurts someone it will probably be a child, and the pain of hurting a child will be unbearable and will kill her." We talked a little more, told each other our names. "You must be a very gentle man," she said, "Because you brought those drawings over." As I was leaving I saw a box with a ceramic figurine in it that said, "Bears from the Past." "What's in that box?" I asked. She opened it carefully and said, "It's a unicorn. Take it to your mother." And so I did. It's a magical unicorn with a missing horn.

31 comments:

Tash said...

You are indeed a very gentle man, Mr. Earl.
I loved the whole story, esp. because it touching, but not overly sentimental. You captured the struggles of old age and the value of remembrences.

Cafe Observer said...

The only thing missing from this wunderful story are more pictures.

Mister Earl said...

Thanks, Tash.

CO - Tomorrow, I'll see if I can get photos of the 3 drawings.

Laurie said...

This is wonderful, Mr. E. I'd love to have seen the photo of those appliances!

Mister Earl said...

No, Laurie, there wasn't one of those... Or was there?

altadenahiker said...

It was a long time, but this was worth waiting for. Just beautiful and funny and sad and simple.

Yes more pictures because, I guess, I don't want this to end. (Appliances in the wedding present picture perhaps?)

Virginia said...

Mr. E.,
You are a good son. Bless your heart.
V

PS I have a charcoal portrait of moi done in New Orleans when I was about 17. It's yours for a song! :)
And I'll throw in my wedding photos as a gift with purchase.

Mister Earl said...

C'mon, Virg. I know you're as interested in the appliances as Laurie and Karin.

altadenahiker said...

These are great! But I don't think you were ever that innocent.

Virginia said...

OMG, they got an ICE CRUSHER for a wedding gift? I'm weak. My grandmother had one and she crushed ice and poured "REAL" Coca Cola over it pour moi. Heaven. ( I guess I am all about at the appliances. :)

Now Mr. E, you and Sistah are too cute!!! Thanks for posting these for us. They've made my day.
V

PS. Excusez moi, no mention of my charcoal portrait from NOLA??? WELL! I NEVAH!

Mister Earl said...

Virg: I love the ice crusher. When I was around 10 and playing baseball in the summers, my friends and I would try to make snowcones. In order to crush the ice I'd take a round wooden cutting board my mom had, put ice cubes on it, cover it with a towel that I tucked in around the edges, and hammer it with a hammer. Needless to say, this was not the best way to crush ice. We had some friends who were very well off, and they had an ice crusher in their kitchen. I guess I thought ice crushers were only for rich people because I never asked for one. My mom must have seen us using the primitive method described above, but she never suggested that there was a better way. Don't know if it was her having grown up during the Depression, or whether she even noticed.

When you come to South Pasadena, bring your portrait and photos and we'll work something out!

Virginia said...

Oh before my Nanny had the red ice crusher, she put ice cubes in a tea towel and slammed it with the handle of a butcher knife. Top that one! HA

Don't worry, the portrait ain't going nowhere. My girls don't seem to want it so it's gathering some fine dust in the basement. And the wedding photos .......well let's say the "bloom has been off the rose" for about 30 years. There are deals to be made here.
Cheers.
V

altadenahiker said...

Ok, if y'all are going to play that game, give me the retro-toaster. Mighty cute.

Mister Earl said...

I'll take the waffle iron. Who wants the pressure cooker?

Cafe Pasadena said...

I'll just take the money.

R U & sista twins??

Mister Earl said...

Yeah, we're twins. Only 3 years 9 months apart. That's why my early years were so difficult. Mom was preoccupied for nearly 4 years trying to push that other twin out.

Virginia said...

I'll take the pressure cooker if it's still got the intruction booklet. My grandmother taught to be scared of a pressure cooker so I've never used one exactly. You heard the tale Mr. E., about the one that blew its top and beets flew all over the kitchen? I am getting the ice crusher aren't I? Don't make me come out there and fight you for that!

My WV is FLOGL, I'll flogl you for the IC!

PS And bless your Momma's heart. That was a trés long delivery. Oh my!!

Mister Earl said...

V: You can have the ice crusher, as long as I can come and get ice when I need it. As for the pressure cooker, back in those days seems like everyone had one. My mom had one. I think she made things like corned beef in them. I just googled them and found out that they made cooking faster (I guess the microwave replaced that) and also made water boil at a higher-than-normal temperature, making them good for sterilization of jars etc.

Virginia said...

ME,
Yes, they were fabulous at cooking a roast in no time flat. The key was not losing the roof of your house in the meantime. Merci pour le ice crusher. You are welcome to come for crushed ice any ole time. Bring your cooler.

PS I hope the crank on that thang still works. We might need some WD40!

Mister Earl said...

I have one of those old metal orange/lemon squeezers. You cut the fruit in half, and put it face down on a metal from, then you pull a crank on the side that comes down on top of the fruit and causes the fruit to be squeezed. It's kinda neat. I feel bad that Dottie and Bob's gift table is missing an electric mixer. Maybe they got one, but it just wasn't on the table.

Mister Earl said...

OK. Our next blogger event will be a stinky, drunken croquet match with an appliance show.

altadenahiker said...

Can't top that one.

Virginia said...

Can I come? I can't play croquet but I can get stinkin' drunk! :)
V
PS I'll bring the crushed ice, I promise. And a pot roast if I can scrape it off the ceiling.

pasadenaadjacent said...

That is so sweet. I agree with Tash. It's so tricky in a nuclear society where loneliness and isolation can overwhelm the elderly. And I also think the way you were able to get at the heart of the "yank the drivers license" issue was really well done. I'm going to remember that.

TheChieftess said...

Very touching indeed...My parents have both passed, but your entry brought back both fond and sad memories...

As for the appliances...we had an ice crusher...for my dad's famous whiskey sours from which my grandma gave me the cherry and orange slice (of course, after they'd soaked up a bit of the flavor) And at this exact moment, there is an original 1950's Osterizer on my kitchen sink that is in perfect working order!!! And yes, I'll bring the croquet set (the one sitting on my patio, barely used), and my dad's recipe for whiskey sours for that game of croquet!!!

altadenahiker said...

Well this gathering almost sounds like a possibility.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Folks had the identical ice-crusher. The 'drawer' part was red. Has anyone claimed the iron? My cousins (4 of 'em) had identical drawings made in the early 60s. Some sidewalk kind of artist somewhere in California, but I thought they were in San Diego area. hmmmm. So, is the iron still available? Ruined mine making grill-cheese sandwiches on it when in college.

Mister Earl said...

You know, Brenda, the lady said something about the guy traveling around and he may have been in San Diego at times. On the other hand, maybe this was a style that several people used, and their drawings might look alike.

CB3Dot said...

What a great, touching story. I followed my mom as she drifted into darkness, and then just lay waiting until the body said OK, I can go with you now. It took almost a year. Thanks.

Virginia said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you Mr. E! Gobble gobble!
V

Paula said...

There's something about a man who loves his mama...