Saturday, September 3, 2011

A treasure

Today was yard sale day. Not for us but for 207 other families in our town and the surrounding areas. (Yes, apparently, there are 207 other families here!) Each Labor Day weekend we have Town Yard Sale Saturday, which creates chaos in our streets rivaled only by town festivals and town parades.

I personally have never had it in me to hold on to every piece of junk I've ever owned in the hope that someone will pay me a dollar (or a quarter) for it after I spend days sorting, organizing, and displaying it. However, I do set out annually to see if there are any bargains to be had. The kids grab their money and come along, finding something they must have at virtually every stop. I don't pay much attention when they carry on about how much they have "always wanted" the piece of junk they spotted fifteen seconds before. We have so much junk in our house already, so even a dime is really too much for a castaway happy meal toy. Free? Still too much.

Today, however, Joshua set his affection on a most unusual object. A dirty, dusty, non-working antique Remington typewriter. He was completely overcome with desire for this device. At only $7, cost was not really an issue, but my aforementioned aversion to adding more junk to our house was. I sometimes dream of throwing away everything we own just so I can see all of the floors and walls again. So, I told him no. "But, it's like a treasure, mom! It's so old . . . an old treasure! Please!" No.

We walked along to several other sales, and he still could not stop talking about it, so I finally told him that if it was still there when we came back (it was right near our house), I would think about it. "Mom, can we please go back now?" he pleaded, "My stomach is flipping because I'm worried it won't be there when we get back." He maintained that he'd never wanted anything so much in his life, despite my reminder that he had known of its existence for only thirty minutes. At every intersection, his face would fall and his entire body follow suit when he saw that I was turning a direction other than toward our house.

Eventually, we headed home and went to check on the typewriter as promised. It was still there, but where before I had given it only a cursory glance, this time I really looked it over. It was dusty. Dirty. A little grimy. Heavy, very heavy. I said no. I explained that it was just going to take up space and be of no use. He argued a little but mostly accepted my answer.

When we got home, though, he started to cry. I implored him to understand that it was just not a good purchase. Had he noticed that no one else had bought it either? "That's just because they don't have any imagination!" he replied, channeling a male version of Anne of Green Gables.

Finally I told him to go ask his dad what he thought about it. David, apparently having more insight into the heart and mind of an 8 year-old boy than I, told him he could buy it. Which is, of course, what I really should have said to begin with. It was, after all, seven dollars. His seven dollars. We headed back over to the sale (together because it would take both of us to carry it home), and he paid the lady his seven dollars. (By the way, I stood there for a minute afterward to talk to a friend, and someone else tried to buy the typewriter literally two minutes after we purchased it . . . whew!)

As I watched him later attacking the machine with a cleaning rag and a bucket full of soapy water - for an hour - I couldn't help but think that I had almost deprived him of this joy. For no real reason. I didn't want to have the junk sitting around. It held no value to me. I saw nothing in it. But to him - to him - it was a treasure. Who am I to say it's not?

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