THE BLOG
10/03/2014 10:11 am ET Updated Dec 03, 2014

How Much For That Cherished Memory?

There are certain things I expected to happen to me as I grew older. I knew I would lose some hair on top of my head (and gain hair everywhere else); I knew I would eventually make those old-man grunt sounds getting up off the couch, and I knew I would most certainly have my kids read the menu to me because I didn't bring my reading glasses to the restaurant. But what I didn't expect was what happened the last weekend this September. It really made me sit back and think about the direction my life was headed. Because that weekend I did something that I thought only old people did:

I went to a yard sale.

Not only did I go to a yard sale, I went to about a dozen of them. It all started innocently enough (don't all LIFETIME movies start off that exact same way?). My daughter was home for the weekend and I told her I would meet her and her boyfriend Paul for breakfast. When I met them at the coffee shop I didn't know she would bring her mom, my ex-wife (Arlene), along. Arlene and I get along fine after our divorce but, on a day like this, Arlene would be dangerous because she is a yard sale junkie. She's more than a junkie; she's a dealer. She'll lure you to a yard sale then say, "oh, I don't have any money, can I borrow a couple of dollars; I'll pay you back later" (Note -- she never does). In her defense, she does come by it naturally; her mother was a notorious yard sale wrangler.

The story goes that Arlene's mother once spent an hour arguing over the price of a blue jacket with the name 'JUDY' etched in white stiches on the shoulder. She battled back and forth with the homeowner over the price:

"Five dollars".

"One dollar," Arlene's mom replied.

"Four dollars."

"One dollar", ignoring the counter offer completely.

She would walk away, then come back and start the dance all over again.

Eventually she won the battle and proudly wore that jacket for years afterwards.

By the way, Arlene's mother's name was Josephine but after the Battle for the Blue Jacket they called her Judy for the rest of her life.

After breakfast we walked down toward a local church that was having a charity yard sale. Under a table I found a beautiful black leather attaché case, something I had actually wanted. I asked the price and it started to make sense, what the allure was, why people were drawn to these events:

"Two dollars," the woman said.

The attaché was not new but it was in excellent condition. I quickly handed over the money.

From there we drove from town to town, development to development, house to house. Through the luxury of the van windows we evaluated peoples' belongings, then either dismissed them as beneath us and drove on, or stopped and got out to inspect the goods. I never thought I'd be one of those people who would pick up a pepper shaker with 'Welcome To' written on it, the destination city salt shaker long since shattered, and quibble over the twenty-five-cent sticker attached to its base. After all, you never pay full price at a yard sale; what are we, tourists? I could see why Judy enjoyed this so much.

By the end of the day I had purchased a pair of framed pictures, those of various fruits and flowers, which I bought for my kitchen. I also purchased a tall, clear plastic cylinder that a nice Old Portuguese woman told me I could cook spaghetti in.

"Just boil hot water and pour it in with your pasta and it cooks!" She even pointed out the strainer at the top of the cylinder. "Just be sure the top is on tight before you pour out the water", she instructed. I learned that lesson the hard way when upon my first attempt I ended up with a sink full of spaghetti.

And then there was that black leather attaché case.

I think another attraction of the yard sale is that slight chance you are going to get more then you paid for. As I went through the empty attaché that night I saw something wedged inside the bottom of the case. I reached in and pulled out a small, red USB Flash drive that the previous owner unknowingly left behind. My heart went a flutter (which is actually a serious medical condition and I should probably see a doctor).

I have to admit it was with a certain voyeuristic glee that I inserted the Flash drive into the USB port of my computer. What tawdry secrets might I uncover? Would I soon be peering into the soul of some tortured writer? Would I uncover some secret plot or some clandestine correspondence between two old lovers?

No quite.

When the window on my computer snapped open it revealed its secret. At that moment I came face-to-face with the 2009 general ledger spreadsheet of the Baker Lightning Rod Company, LLC (Limited Liability Company).

It wasn't exactly the Declaration of Independence hidden in the back of a picture frame.

I brought the flash drive back to the church where I bought the case in the oft chance that someone from the Baker Lightning Rod Company (LLC) would come looking for their 2009 books; I doubt very much anyone would.

I think the yard sale season may be over with the fall and winter months settling in but I'll be ready for next year. Although I did end up with a sink full of spaghetti, I also walked away with a pretty cool leather attaché for two dollars.

On second thought, I should have only offered her a dollar for it.

Rookie mistake.