It is Community Yard Sale Day in my neighborhood.
The time was set weeks ago for 7am to high noon.
I live in the center of seven housing developments.
I don’t know, but I would guess there are around 600 units on this original 110-acre tract of land my family purchased in 1938. For two weeks now I’ve thought and gathered items together for the Yard Sale. Spring Cleaning is good for the soul.
After getting up in plenty of time to have a morning cup of java and assess the traffic in the neighborhood, I decided to take a drive and have a look see. I turned right at the end of our driveway to first see if the most expensive houses in our neighborhood were participating in the community yard sale. Notta one. But what I did discover is that every single solitary house in that part of the neighborhood is perfectly, I mean is perfectly and stylishly landscaped. The majestic white Hydrangea is especially beautiful now. The landscaping is just so thoughtfully done. My great grandmother, Annie Ionoff, after who the main thoroughfare is named, would be so so so thrilled and happy to see how beautiful this neighborhood is.
She was a mad gardener. Grandma had an amazing patch of land at her beckoning. There were orchards full of apple, cherry, peaches, apricot and sickle pear trees, and gardens of amazing roses, 2-300 tomato and hot pepper plants each and Wisteria under control. Spring here is truly wonderous. These grounds awaken after winter with an incredible array of daffodils and irises and it gets greener by the day!
The neighborhood is more beautiful in this section because they didn’t clear all the land to build the neighborhood; they cleared only enough land to build each house and left all the beautiful trees essentially seamlessly co-existing with the wooded environment. Several neighbors have said that is why they ultimately chose to buy here. These are single-family homes that sold originally for $250,000 in the early 1990’s.
That is not the case with the original section of the neighborhood. Those are condos built about ten years before and sold for $30,000 originally.
So I drive past our house again that’s looking especially beautiful I must say sitting on the highest point of the ridgeline with its mountain stone architecture. I drive past the tennis courts, past the pool and happen on Barbie heaven. A girl of about 11 or 12 is in her driveway in a stance of defiance, her father sits in a lawn chair. I notice that every second or third house in this part of the neighborhood has a driveway or sidewalk full. They’re open for business on this Yard Sale Saturday. This is good! Some houses are lightening the load with kid’s toys; some have cleaned out their closets, some their basements. I had no intentions of making a purchase today. I was merely driving thru the neighborhood to see how many people were doing the yard sale.
That’s when I turned onto the street where my Mama, two brothers and sister used to live and I saw the lawnmower. Now there was something I truly needed! Since I saw a woman out in the yard I decided to buzz by and see what she was asking for the lawnmower. I came around and parked. I got out went to have a look. The woman had apparently gone back inside. It looked pretty good; not fancy, not at all enfunkulated or beat up, just your basic push mower model. From the car as I drove up the sign I saw on the mower looked like info about it and maybe a price. As I approached however, I discovered that the sign read: ”For Information about Yard Sale Items, Please Ring Door Bell”. So I waited around for a few minutes for her eminent return and when she didn’t I walked up to the front porch and rang the doorbell.
I waited for what seemed like an eternity. She finally came out. I inquired about the condition and price of the lawnmower. She said “honestly it hasn’t been used since last year when the neighborhood association experienced contract issues with their lawn maintenance provider and we had to cut the grass in their own back yards. Marie Claire had brought up the lawnmower from the basement last night and a neighbor had tried to start it without luck. She then suggests giving it a go to see for ourselves. She attempts to pull the cord but was clearly unfamiliar with how to start it. I say “we’ve got to hold onto this bar too and prime the engine to get it going.” She says “clearly you know what you’re doing, why don’t you try it.” I push the primer button three or four times, hang onto the bar and give several good pulls on the starter cord. The engine sounds like it wants to start but doesn’t. We check the gas. Definitely enough to start it.
So we start to chitchat for a minute and she asks if I live in the neighborhood. I say yes and tell her our house number. Then Marie Claire says, “Look, I’ll give you the lawnmower for FREE if you want to take it.” This is a woman who’s serious about Spring Cleaning. I could tell immediately by her well maintained from yard. I looked up at her and said, “Are you serious?” ‘Quite so,” says she. I’m so thrilled. I stand up and say, “Thank you so very much. You’ve just made my day!” And I give her a genuine hug fortified with happiness of my good fortune. I just received an unexpected gift from the universe that I really needed AND I hugged a complete stranger and new to me neighbor and she hugged me back.
So as we’re on the way to put the mower into the trunk of my car, Marie Claire asks me if I might need any furniture items. And I say, why Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. I’m looking for a bed and a couch. And she says “Oh, I have this bed here you can take a look at. That’s when she points to this medium-sized poster with two photographs and a sign reading “Like New Water Bed $100”. Then she begins to tell me that her daughter bought this bed and it’s got these tubes that you fill up with water and insert under the padded top to fill up the bed. I’d never seen a model like this. But then you can count the number of encounters I’ve had with waterbeds on one hand and have fingers left over. So she says, “Come on in. I’ll show you the bed.” I follow her inside and am met at the door by two feline personalities interested and inviting. I say hello to the kittuses, let ‘em give me sniff and follow her downstairs.
As I reached the bottom of the steps and turn left into the basement, I’m struck by the powerful feeling of déjà vu all over again. It’s a thought of having come absolute and full circle. Being in her house, which is exactly, like Mama’s and three other neighborhood friends’, it's one I intimately know. Her house was well organized, comfortable, has good light and traffic flow. The air is fresh and the color, furnishings, and arrangement of objects feels good. I say to her how well her house feels to me and that I think her photographs are nicely displayed. Are those your works? No. They’re actually ones my daughter has taken. The wall was a rich color red and the black & white photographs were thoughtful snapshots in nice black wooden frames. (The wall is a near color match to my bedroom.) So then Marie Clare is telling me how daughter was just accepted to and beginning the summer masters program @ the Philadelphia School of the Arts for Museum Management! How wonderful! As she’s telling me I’m having a closer look at the other wall of pictures.
Then she says, “This is one of my photographs. I took a three-credit course at the Community College to learn Photoshop. It took me three months to do this. It’s a black & white collage of ALL the women in her family as far back as they have pictures ~ six generations! What a striking idea a collage like that is! I would love to have a similar one of my own family and one for all of the men too. It really gives a new perspective on your place and belonging within the tribe.
At this point I’m just blown away by my good fortune. How truly wonderful to have people in your day who are so lovely and artsy and creative and open and sharing of their good news, accomplishments and fortune. I was just so delighted to meet this nice new to me neighbor with a family of bright shining stars. She's obviously got a strong sense of a cultural compass. How blessed I am. We exchanged phone numbers.
So now we’re outside again and about ready to take the lawnmower to my car. That’s when a very handsome man drives up and inquires if we have any veterans in the family who have collected any military items. Marie Claire said she had a flag that may be of interest and disappeared into the house again to fetch it. Before I realized it, the man with the obvious military history was standing right in front of me.
That’s when I said: “What perfect timing You have! Wouldn’t you mind lending me your muscles for a moment to put this lawnmower into my car?” In fifteen seconds we were done and I was off just as Marie Claire returned. We exchanged a wink and a nod for our good fortune at the handsome helper showing up at the perfect time. I thanked her again.
I drive the equivalent of two blocks, to the Barbie heaven again where I’m compelled to say to the Papa sitting in his lawn chair alone ~ “Wow, it’s like Barbie heaven at Your house!” He gets a strange look on his face and says, “ I told her she was going to have to sell all this stuff and make some money!!!”
I just kinda rolled on slowly by but my first thought of the neighborhood girl standing in her driveway with the defiant stance made sense now. Poor girl. Poor Papa. Something sure wasn’t happy in that family today.
Ever notice how you might have these yin and yang experiences? Here I meet one neighbor who obviously got a stable cultural compass and just moments later, meet another in seeming distress and heading south! I sent them love and light and a little prayer for peaceful conflict resolution as I drove past the pool and the tennis courts again home.
I say to the Mama ~
“Hey, Mama, you won’t believe this one!
“What did you buy?”
"I got a lawnmower for FREE!"
We howled because last year at this time when she was staying with us in Florida, she and I came home with a new lawn mower too one fine Saturday afternoon. I was thrilled to pay $50 bucks for that one so today’s find was a new fun twist on this new tradition.
So we’re sitting on the porch having another cup of coffee and I tell her that I first went into the neighborhood to the right into Sienna Woods (some call it See Ya in the Woods . . .). She’s not in the least bit surprised to hear notta one of those houses were doing a yard sale. I got the sense she would have been more surprised if I told her they were! Anyway, I was all excited to share with her my discovery of finding that part of the neighborhood so perfectly and thoughtfully landscaped and the spectacular white Hydrangea. Her immediate comment was how much Grandma would have loved to see and known that.
No question about it.