Sunday, May 29, 2011

Stories for Cruz

At about 7:15 a.m. the three garage doors finally rolled open in synchronization. It had been years since I had been involved at a garage sale, but my mom had warned me about the first few hours. I drank my coffee as quick as I could and tried to scrounge together everything I needed. As the garage doors raised to eye level I literally saw people running down the sidewalk. Within five minutes there were probably 30 to 40 people rummaging through and bumping into each other. It was madness! I couldn't believe it. The first item that I sold was a cropped fur coat I had bought at a flea market in college. And then it began... Over the course of two days the widest variety of people made there way through our garage. It was a very unsettling feeling to have strangers pick through well loved sentimental items and try to bargain the price down by a quarter. Especially since some of the items where my grandmothers and she passed away last month. I know that grandma would have been proud of us. She held many a garage sale and she was a stickler that would not budge much on her prices! Especially on home decor. There were times when I would see someone pick up a blanket or pitcher or shirt and I literally wanted to run over and tell them to put it back down. "I'm sorry that's not for sale" I could hear myself apologize in my mind. Instead I would try to stomach the lump and realize that everything has its season. We still have the best of the best items from my grandma and those that were of sentimental value with my kids. Still, there were moments of grief, and even panic. Mom and I would look at each other with wide eyes, "Should we move that back inside?" "Are you sure you don't still need that?" We could have justified saving many things only to put them back on a shelf in the closet to pull out at the next garage sale. I remember thinking, if they put that toy back down then I will go grab it. Instead, they would bring it over and try to bargain the price down even lower. Some people were unbelievable. One of the first couples that came through I know stole a new 3-6 month dress that hadn't been worn yet. I saw it under her arm as they walked away without paying. I figured that if they had to steal it from a garage sale when it cost $3.00, they must have really needed it.

The people came in droves, all kinds. Tall, short, fat, skinny, some dressed in rags, and some wearing tons of fake jewelry. Each one looking for something special, knowing that somewhere out there someone might be getting rid of just what they needed. I was shocked at how many strangers openly shared stories of their lives. All it took was one person saying, "How are you doing today?" for them to open up and share their life story. I heard many times over about a relative having cancer, or the person himself recovering from cancer or surgery, people that had asthma, allergies, babies on the way, and so on.... One of the things that was fascinating to me was watching who found value in which items. Each person looked at the same merchandise in completely different ways. Some saw junk and some saw treasure. What was it in their DNA, their life story, their past or personality that defined value to them? Some people could glance at an item and within five seconds judge its value. Others would pick it up, study it, feel it, ask questions before deciding if it was worth the 'price'. There was even one particular man there with an inventory scanner that came and scanned the books to see if they were worth value and then left. There are so many parallels I could pull from these experiences, like  'not judging a book by its cover'... but I just keep thinking about all of the different people that walked through the room and how different they were. Each one created equal and each one created with a purpose. As infants we are all born more or less the same. Naked, small, helpless, slight variations in personality but for the most part similar. Each baby is born into different environments, different circumstances that shape and mold their character, personality, and value system. Just like I could hear my grandma's voice in the back of my head talking about why some of those items were worthy of their price, they could possibly have heard a mother or grandmothers voice explaining the value to them. I would watch the cars that they would drive off in, notice the people that came in groups and just wondered what their stories were. One lady came in crying, cried the entire time, finally went back and sat in the car crying while she waited for the girl she was with. Some seemed content to just 'be'. Some seemed to have the demeanor of constant struggle and strife. Some laughed with friends and seemed to find joy in just being together. Some aggressive ones seemed bitter and eager to try to stretch the dollar at any cost. What was it that shaped these peoples priorities and values? Besides feeling ridiculously gluttonous, I wondered what kind of demeanor that I carry. I know I would not have been one of those people that spilled their life story to a stranger. I can tend to be more private and closed off. I wondered if I would come across to these people as rude, spoiled, friendly, sarcastic. Then I wondered what kind of environment am I allowing to shape Cruz and Wren. Already at two years old he is being molded. We 'teach' him to be honest, to share, to do what he is told, etc. But what is he learning from the way that I am living my life. When nobody is around and I am alone with both of the kids, what is he absorbing from my character and behavior. I am embarrassed to say that I am sure he is learning some bad traits. I know there are times when I am snappy with him because I am frustrated. I know that there are times that I need to stop and sit down and show him complete attention. I know there are times when I push him to try to do the things he doesn't want to do. Is he learning that the iphone, text, email, or 'wordswithfriends' game is more important? Is he learning that mommy tries to multitask too many things? Or is he learning how to communicate feelings appropriately?  Is he learning how to love? Is he learning how to have fun? I am not sitting down and showing him a value system chart or graph of what is most important to what is least important. I am not explaining monetary value, or beauty. But by my actions every single day he is learning what is most important. Watching me he sees the tasks that are important. He hears who is important by who I talk to on the phone or who we talk about, or who we don't talk to or talk about. He is learning how to respond to someone when he is angry by the way I respond to situations around me. He is learning value in all the moments when I least expect it and probably when I would rather he look the other way. What kind of story am I writing for him. What kind of person am I shaping him to be? Twenty years from now if he were go to a garage sale. Which person would he be? Would he hear my voice in the back of his head correcting him or guiding him? Would he be open and honest and friendly with people? Would he be closed off and private, or would he be willing to sit and talk with someone who needed a listening ear? These are the kinds of thoughts that could keep me awake at night if I let them. I will be honest, I mess up all the time. I am no Saint, but I am a writer. What kind of story am I writing for Cruz?

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