SERENDIPITY AND GARAGE SALES
I found this rosy fabric liner for next to nothing at a garage sale and had to have it. But I had no idea why ... until I discovered it is perfect for wrapping my books for mailing. Have you ever bought something at a garage sale that turns out to perfectly meet a need you didn't know you had? Read on.
Yard sales are where we find things we didn’t know we were looking for.
That’s exactly why I enjoy them. Of course, that can mean we are hoarders. Or simply that we’re at the right place at the right time.
My favorite example happened in Attica, Indiana, in the late 1980s. For months prior to that summer day, I had my eye on what I considered my dream house – a circa-1900 Dutch Colonial-styled beauty in Veedersburg. I loved everything about it from the open foyer with the open staircase, the country kitchen that opened up into a formal dining room, the huge laundry room.
It was for sale. It was big and old and had been beautifully cared for. I loved that house. I dreamed about that house. I even stalked that house.
For months, the home remained for sale and Brian and I, along with baby Sam, looked at it several times. We made an offer, clearly too low-ball-ish to merit a counter-offer. Around Christmas, Brian made a prediction. "By spring we'll own it. They will come down. You'll see."
There was something deeper at stake than holding out for the right price. We knew that if we bought the home, we were in fact committing to staying in Fountain County, to raising Sam there, to becoming permanent Fountain Central Mustangs. I think my husband sensed that once I planted myself in that house, no one would be able to pry it out.
As long as we rented from our small but perfectly serviceable farmhouse from our adorable landlords, Howard and Fauneil Colson, we could remain free to leave, no strings attached. We hadn't even signed a contract with them! We just shook hands and promised $200 a month. It was the old-time farm way.
One day I drove by the dream house that spring, just to once again imagine what it would be like to live there, picture where I’d place the porch swing and what the Christmas tree would look like in the living room window. But I got more than I bargained for.
There was a moving truck out front! People were carrying furniture into “my” house. Only it would never be mine. There was a sold sign.
So, that was that. One dream deflated.
Still stinging from the loss of “my” house, at the Attica garage sale that summer, I spotted something I didn’t know I was looking for. It was a gorgeous Seller’s cabinet in my favorite honey-oak. It was $350. I wanted it.
Such cabinets sell in antiques shops (or at least they did then) for at least double or even triple that. It was at once a bargain and a lot of money to spend on the spur of the moment. I called Brian from the garage-sale residence. Could I buy it? I would get no pleasure out of such a purchase if it didn’t come with his blessing.
He didn’t even hesitate. He didn't tell me to offer less. He didn't tease me. Yes! Buy it!
We both know why he was so agreeable. He recognized my disappointment over not getting the house of my dreams, a house that could just have easily been ours.
I’ve never regretted getting that cabinet. It has been the focal point of all three kitchens it has adorned in our lives. And that’s not all of the story. Seller’s cabinets, as it turns out, were made in Madison County … the county that became our home after we left Fountain.
Oh, but there’s more. A few years ago I interviewed Nancy Hiller, a Bloomington high-end cabinet maker herself, who is also a writer. She wrote a book about Hoosier cabinets. When I told her my Seller’s cabinet story, she added a new layer of depth. She said the word cabinet means small cabin. So in effect, my cabin-et was the consolation prize for not getting the big cabin (house)!
In more recent years, I bought something that I had no use for, had no idea what I would do with it, and something completely unlike what I would normally purchase. It was 50 cents, maybe even a quarter.
I had to have it but didn’t know why.
It was a bolt of white fabric lining, thin and stiff, adorned with pink roses. I took it home, having no idea what I would do with it, and plopped it in the back corner of my closet. Later, after Sam left home and I claimed his former closet for Christmas and gift-wrapping storage, I moved the roll to the gift-wrap container. Only trouble was that the roll was fatter and taller than the paper goods and the lid would no longer fit as it should.
It took a few years but finally, the purpose for that awkwardly large roll of fabric liner was revealed! As it turned out, the liner is perfect for wrapping up books, a pretty padding for mail-ordered purchases. Since it was practically free, and there’s lots of it, cost is not a factor—unlike what it would be if I needed to buy padded envelopes, bubble-wrap or tissue paper and assess some portion of the cost per mailing.
After I swaddle a book in the liner, it takes on the appearance of a gift, but its true purpose is protection against whatever handling the package incurs inside its tightly taped manila envelope on the way to Kennard or Liberty, California, Tennessee or Florida (and yes, I’ve mailed books to all those places).
I also found the envelopes for a buck a package at a thrift store, making them a dime each. And I use the media-rate (and take careful precautions to meet the requirements). I wanted to charge as little as possible when mailing out the books and I think that $2.79 is about as good as I can get.
I’ve had feedback from more than a couple of readers on how they liked the “wrapping.” Mission accomplished.
Somehow, I knew that roll of liner would come in handy … serendipity coming to a mailbox near you.
One more thing: Look at the cover of the new book. You'll see a Hoosier-style (or Seller's-style) baker's cabinet. The cabinet is of no particular brand or make, but is the artist's rendition representing vintage cabinets once so popular in the Hoosier state ... and in my kitchen!
Another full-circle moment, somehow.
If you are interested in receiving a signed copy of either of my novels, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, or That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, wrapped in the rosy fabric liner, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll send details.