A Tribute to my Sister
A Knack for Choosing Clothes
I don’t remember when my sister started frequenting garage sales but I do recall that when I went along, it felt like we were going to the fair! She always said, “You never know what you’re going to find at one of these places.” And we didn’t. But we often left with a good “find.”
In mid-June, I returned home from whichever country I happened to be teaching in at any given year. When I unpacked and slid open the closet door, I knew I’d find a few bags of clothing stored there for me. I’d open the bag and pull out what she later referred to as “a cute top I couldn’t resist,” or a “pair of jeans in your size. Amy, look at the label!” She delighted in gifting me these articles of clothing. They were practical, inexpensive and often, brand new. I wore most of what she found for me. They fit me well and looked nice, not to mention most of them sported top brand names.
Every week from Thursday to Saturday during my six-week stay home, she had our mornings mapped out for us by neighborhood. With the newspaper in hand, she would pull into the driveway and beep her horn. She had circled, highlighted, and put stars next to the ones she felt sold the greatest loot. “Got your seat belt on?” she asked. At my nod, she backed out and we were on our way. She learned early on that her sense of direction was much better than mine, so she slowed down to find the address. She maneuvered her car into a spot the size of a handkerchief–or so it seemed to me–and we got out. She handed me a cloth bag or a back-pack, one she’d likely picked up cheaply or for nothing at another sale.
Carolyn could size up a sale at a glance. “These prices are too high,” she whispered. “Don’t pay more than…” Sometimes she pulled me aside, “That’s a steal! Grab it before anyone else gets it,” she advised. I picked up the good stuff and set the trinket aside. I trusted her judgment completely.
The neighborhood sales were her favorite. She moved quickly from one to another. Often I found her sorting through piles of clothing in boxes or heaped on sheets on the ground. I don’t know how she had the patience but she extracted one-of-a-kind pieces. Her daughters, me, Mom, or one of my brothers were recipients of her generosity. Later, she sorted through baby clothes and toddler sizes with the same efficiency. While she sought out clothing, the list eventually widened to hand-held toys and playhouses, tools for Dad and love stories for Mom.
Since I knew she had the clothing department covered, I lingered over decorated tin cans, Christmas ornaments and the books. At one neighborhood sale in a wealthy subdivision, Carolyn latched onto some classy silverware. She said we couldn’t pass it up; the price was… yes, another steal! She also purchased Tupperware, serving dishes, bed sheets and dishware–the latter two, she gifted to refugee families and others in need.
My sister helped people often. She helped a missionary in Zimbabwe by finding school uniforms along with pens, pencils and notebooks. One summer when I came home, I told my sister that I would be traveling to a Kenyan village in December of that year. I planned to visit the school of a Kenyan child I sponsored through an organization called ChildFund, International. The primary school was in need of everything–but books in particular. So we scoured the sales for used books. Most of them cost a quarter each. But the way she explained, people listened and really cared. As a result, we often received the books for a dime each. Some people simply gave them to us. Like the clothing, the storybooks my sister found looked nice, were culturally appropriate and colorful.
My sister always went with a list and specific goals but she stayed open to the possibilities. It was fun to watch her in action.
If Carolyn felt the owner needed the money badly, she looked around until she found something she could buy, just to help them out. If she thought the owner was taking advantage, she would move on even if she liked something. As Carolyn looked over the wares, she struck up conversations with other shoppers–men and women alike–and those selling. Her enthusiasm and energy were indelible. In fact, her good-nature was infectious. I often heard laughter in her midst.
Along the lines of garage sales, my sister had her favorite discount stores. When I went to Gabe’s, I got a headache and felt overwhelmed.I had no idea where to start looking. But she knew exactly where to go and how to find me the perfect back-to-the-tropics teaching outfits. When I left for the Middle East, she found the proper attire for me there, too. Carolyn had the patience to find me the right sizes and so many choices. The shopping sprees ended up as “gifts” to me.
Last spring, she and her oldest daughter, Rachel, jumped in the car and took two granddaughters and another little girl to Gabe’s. It was a one-of-a-kind sale with prices reduced to more than half off. The look on the girls’ faces tells it all. My sister loves to bring joy to others, especially her granddaughters.
One day I asked her to look for some kind of clothing rack to hold clothes at my own garage sales, which took place in early August every year. The flimsy one I had kept toppling over. I don’t know if it was the very next day or a couple days luater but she found an incredible rack on wheels with hooks at the sides, a top and a bottom rack. She bought it off a family closing up for the day. Just like that. I was speechless. The perfect clothing rack!
She said with a grin, “You never know what you’re going to find at one of these places.”
How do you feel about garage “sailing” when you are shopping for something? Do you prefer retail outlets or thrift stores? What is the most interesting / best bargain that you’ve found? Looking forward to your responses!