We lived in Kansas in the very early 1990s. Before moving back to Hawaii in 1992 we held a garage sale to get rid of a bunch of household items which had accumulated during three years of dust bowl living.
Garage sales are not worthy unless neighbors, friends, and co-workers bring their household goodies to the garage.
Why? Because misery loves company, right?
That’s true, but garage sales attract more people with more money when there are more items to buy, hence the need for more items to sell, hence the need to involve neighbors, friends, and co-workers, so there are more items.
For this garage sale a number of friends and co-workers brought various and sundry items to sell. That makes for a bigger event, which gets more people to stop by.
Our place was at the end of a cul-de-sac a few blocks off the beaten track, so we needed all the help we could get.
My job in the family is to drive and carry heavy stuff. At a garage sale with only small household items (ostensibly already there, or brought in by neighbors and friends), my skills are not put to good use.
Items have to be listed and marked. The prices marked have to be on a stick of tape of a color that belongs to a neighbor, friend, co-worker, or us (just to keep the money straight). That’s not fun. That’s not guy work.
As I always say in such situations, ‘Hmmm. Time to head to the mall.’
Before I could make a getaway, Sharon Durmaskin, one of my co-workers, dropped by with a box of goodies to sell. The mall visit would have to wait as I was now obligated to provide a new audience with commentary and perspective on the new box of goodies.
‘Sharon, what do you have that you’re willing to part with for 25-cents,’ I asked, holding a smirk long enough to imply that I was an old hand at garage sales. I’m not. Otherwise, I would have started the bidding for the as-yet-unnamed, unseen articles in her box at about 5-cents.
‘How about this?‘ Sharon said, dead serious. All Jewish women who work in broadcasting and carry a box of items to a garage sale on Saturday are dead serious. She held up a ceramic figurine of a female frog sitting on a toilet.
‘25-cents?‘ I scoffed and smiled at the same time. That mixture of scoff and smile is more difficult while chewing Saltine crackers and drinking whiskey, but I pulled it off without the extras. Why?
The ceramic figurine of a female frog sitting on a toilet was the spitting image of my wife. Except for the frog part. Even then, if you look at the figurine just right…
Sharon was never one to let a pause go by too far without filling it with some kind of retort. ‘OK, 15-cents. And I don’t make change.’
15-cents? I’d have paid $10 for it. If the frog had been a female Chinese frog on a toilet, I would have paid $25 and had it dipped in bronze or whatever it is you do to preserve things that mean something only to you and no other human being.
‘Deal,’ I said, and handed over a dime and a nickel. The frog woman and toilet were mine.
As you can tell from the photograph, it’s been almost 20 years and I still have the ceramic female frog. It rests in a corner beside the bath, near the bathroom scales, just below the towels.
The frog sits on the toilet just the same way my wife sits on the toilet. The hands (webbed on the frog; that’s one way to tell them apart) are folded the same way. The legs fold the same way. The face is contorted into a ‘just-give-me-a-few-more-minutes‘ look, albeit relaxed exactly the same way.
The ceramic female frog figurine has been a constant reminder of a number of things that could easily have been forgotten.
I’m reminded of Sharon Durmaskin. Who knew a Jewish woman could give a 40-percent discount?
I’m reminded of how much time my wife spends in the bathroom. Jeff Foxworthy of redneck fame, does a bit about how women and men leave the bathroom in different ways.
The woman leaves the bathroom, and says, ‘Honey, how do I look?‘ The man leaves the bathroom, and says, ‘Honey, you don’t want to go in there.’
I’m reminded of genes. There’s some relative of my wife, toiling away in a sweatshop in rural China, baking and painting figurines of female frogs sitting on toilets, and thinking, ‘This looks just like my mother.’
It’s the best 15-cents I ever spent.