Prompts is a joint creative exercise between my friend Matt W. and I. We will choose a different subject at the beginning of each week and post no more than 500 words on said topic on Fridays (or Wednesdays … wink, wink). Here’s a prompt detailing something my parents were right about that I didn’t realize until later.
One of my enduring childhood memories revolves around my mom hopping in her Ford Escort on Saturday mornings to go garage sale’n. She would highlight the upcoming sales in the local newspaper the night before then drive up and down the bayou eyeing discarded treasures for quarters on the dollar. I did not value her hobby then. I barely tolerated it. I called her prized takeaways “junk” on more than one occasion. I equated frugality and thriftiness as poor people’s concerns, distant from my fantasy world of Saturday morning cartoons. My mom laughed at my immaturity and continued her Saturday morning routine.
To this day my mom chides me about my childhood declarations I would become a Major League Baseball player one day. “You said you were going to be rich,” she said once. “What happened?” Of course when I was 7 or 8 and hitting lobs from a teammate’s parent I figured the game would always be easy, and by extension money would be no consequence for me as I aged. In my world I would never buy anything that came into contact with another person. The word used would not exist in my vocabulary.
So how did that work out?
I spent my baseball prime playing beer league softball in Portland. So yeah, I didn’t earn enough money to buy even one garage sale T-shirt playing America’s former pastime. Not to mention, today I live in the most expensive borough in America’s most expensive city. I would be in trouble if it were not for my mom’s garage sale example, namely how she showed me the importance of stretching a dollar. My dad also deserves credit for sharing a similar economic philosophy, if not a similar taste for wheeling and dealing in people’s yards and car ports.
New York City has a singular way of devouring one’s paycheck – the clothes shops, the restaurants, the nightlife, the sporting events, and the uber expensive groceries. And that’s not even including the rent, which is its own fiscal area code. The city entices and seduces with all the possibilities wealth can bring, ya know if you are wealthy. Common people, like myself, should not waste money popping bottles in the club, even entertain the thought of buying that leather jacket hanging in the boutique window, or pay $100 for shitty seats to see the shitty Knicks. This city is a giant rat ripping through the garbage can known as your finances with a plague’s abandon. Which reminds me: Summer is coming and that means a whole pack of Master Splinters will be throwing block parties outside my front stoop every night. Yay New York!
In an effort to preserve my limited financial resources I have adopted a term my phrase my mom used when showing me her latest garage sale find for me. I loathed the term “like new” when it pertained to T-shirts and pants she bought me. Today I realize “like new” is not some cuss word my mom hurled at the ginger boy who would be king, er me. It’s a synonym for value in clothing, furniture, books, etc. You won’t find me attending garage sales – I guard my sleep on Saturdays like The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – but I am a devotee of thrift stores and have been known to snag a copy of Catch-22 from a free-pile sidewalk stack. Living that “like new life” is the only way to stay afloat in New York City unless you have a trust fund. And that, sadly, is one thing you can’t pick up for two quarters at a garage sale.