Occasionally I have been known to stop by garage sales to see if there is something I would like to buy. Sometimes I am looking for something specific. Other times, I am just window-shopping. The thing about garage sales, as they say, is “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” You never know what you might find.
During all my travels, though, I have never really thought to stop at a garage sale. Not sure why. Probably most likely because I’m not sure if other countries do this seemingly American tradition. Maybe other countries just don’t have garages. Or maybe I just wouldn’t recognize the words for “garage sale” on a sign in another language. But really, I never thought about garage sales as something to do when traveling…
…until this most recent trip that I just returned from in Alaska. My sister and I drove up and down Alaska for 8 days, experiencing many fun and interesting adventures. One day we were driving down one of the most beautiful roads that I have ever seen in this world. East End Road out of Homer. With wildflowers growing on both sides of the road. With homes sprinkling amongst the flowers. With tremendous views of the glacier- and snow-filled mountains in the background. With waters shimmering in the never-ending daylight. As we drove mile after mile after mile down this road, I decided that if I were to ever live in Alaska, this would be the place!
But I digress from garage sales. Well, not really, for the beauty of this area is beyond comprehension, so that anyone who lives here, I think, is lucky. On our way back down the road, I spotted a garage sale sign. I said to my sister, “Would you like to look and see what an Alaskan garage sale is like?” “Sure,” she replies.
As we pulled into to the driveway of a modest home, with the absolutely fabulous views, their second garage sale sign caught my eye and intrigued me. It was a large sign, in green and purple, saying “YARD SALE, 10-7pm, Thurs-Sun,” just like the sign along the side of East End Road. This sign was placed next to some flowers and a cute little plant holder that looks like a log cabin. “Very inviting display,” I thought to myself. (I guess when people don’t have garages, they do have yards.)
As we wandered in, there was the usual stuff for sale: worn-but-still-in-good-shape clothes, out-dated electronic equipment, old sporting gear, books, knickknacks and chachkies.
But this turned out to not be just any old garage sale. It was more than just what was for sale and the signs. It was the people who lived in this home, selling their treasures. They were the friendliest garage sale people that I have ever met. A mother and her daughter.
“Hi, welcome to our home and our garage sale,” they greeted us. “Would you like some coffee?” This enthusiasm threw me off a bit, as I have never been greeted in such a way at a garage sale before. The cheerful welcome would have been enough. And yes, I have been offered coffee before – at restaurants, friend’s homes, even rest stops on the side of the roads. But I have never been offered coffee at a garage sale.
My sister accepted the offer of the coffee, and as we rummaged through their treasures, we actually had a conversation with this family. We started out by saying how beautiful the place is that they lived. And how lucky they were to be there. And how I would live there too, if I ever lived in Alaska!
And then the mother, as friendly as can be, told us in a nut shell of their life story, and how the family came to live there. The ups and downs of their lives’ paths, she described. She freely told us of themselves, sharing family tribulations and triumphs. Health challenges, other places they had lived, education for the daughter, marriage, etc., etc. Truly nice people, I must say!
We must have chatted for a half hour or so, as we continued to browse through their treasures. I realized as I was experiencing the interactions that the quote from above is not necessarily true…maybe it should read, “one man’s previously-used treasures could be another man’s new treasure.”
As the coffee and conversation came to a close, my sister bought a cute t-shirt with a moose on it. I unfortunately could not find any treasure that either fit me or that I could take back with me as a souvenir of our encounter at the world’s friendliest garage sale. I was attracted to the embroidered jeans, but they were several sizes too small. And I really wanted the old wooden skis, but to transport them around and bring them back home might have been a challenge. (Which I now regret that I didn’t even try.) Oh, well. It is the memories of this experience, both the family and the scenery, that are what I bring back from Alaska!
As we left, smiles, understanding, support, and well wishes for all were exchanged. I hope for the best for this family. And I want them to know again, what a beautiful place they live in.
Watercolor painting, “Grewingk Glacier & Fireweed,” by Donna Martin of Homer, Alaska.
My sister and I frequented a few other garage sales during our travels in Alaska after this one, but none were anything like this. An experience with people selling their treasures and expressing themselves to two people they did not know.
I think that perhaps that if I ever have a garage sale, I shall offer coffee to all those who stop by!
All photos by Debby