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May 22, 2008

Attitude and Gratitude at the Garage Sale

. May 22, 2008


As the orange sun rises over my little pocket of California, I’m unpacking boxes and boxes of trinkets, CDs and jeans I can’t believe once fit me. Arranging everything on the lawn and driveway, I wonder why I chose the hottest Saturday of the year to have a garage sale. Beads of sweat flick off my forehead, a little river courses down my back. Lovely.

Before we even finish laying out the goods, carloads of shoppers drive up. Young kids find the stuffed animals and board games immediately while their parents pick through more practical items. Some prices are marked while others are up for barter. A Hispanic man tries out my maroon velvet over sized chair. “How much?” he asks. “Thirty bucks,” I say, and he suggests $10. No, not at 6:30 in the morning. I tell him $10 is the afternoon price.

A white woman kneels beside one of my jean piles. She is mid-40s, blond, wearing Capri pants, a white t-shirt with “DKNY” in black and nice leather sandals. Her toenails are French manicured. She calls her daughter over, who has iPod buds stuck in her ears. The girl takes her time responding. She fixates on her iPod Nano, working the wheel and taking a few steps toward her mother at a time. She is thin with blond hair cut in a fashionable bob, making her look older than the teenager she is. She wears tight white Apple Bottom jeans and a light pink halter-top. I put her at 16 years old.

By the time she reaches her mom, the woman holds a stack of my nicest jeans – about 5 pair – and smiles eagerly at her child:

Mom: Honey, these are all sevens and in great shape!
Girl: Oh.
Mom: Well, check them out. Here. I think they’re really nice. Look! There’s L.E.I., Ralph Lauren, Calvins… (she hands her the stack).
Girl: Uh huh. Yeah. (She looks at the top pair and hands the stack back to mom).
Mom: Okay, well, I’m going to get them. They’re just your size and in mint condition. They’re only $3 each.
Girl: Fine.

She walks away from her mother and towards their SUV. The mother pays me $15 without hesitation and leaves with a nice stack of denim.

I turn to find a Hispanic mother and her teen daughter looking at one of my old bridesmaid dresses hanging on a coat rack. It’s a lavender strapless chiffon, a popular style in its day but not so high fashion a decade later. Still, the girl fingers the material carefully, swishing the long skirt around her dark legs in faded jean shorts. Her mother removes the dress from the hanger and holds it up to her daughter, both smile.

The mother asks for the price. I tell her $5. The two confer together for a few moments. Both open their purses. The mother produces $4 and the daughter adds $1 of her own. I package the dress in its original garment bag and when I turn to hand it over, the girl is hugging her mother with both arms:

"Thank you mom! Thank you so much."

18 Whispers:

Miss Write said...

I know it's not right to judge because we really don't know what's going on in the surly teenager's life, but really, sometimes people do take things (and people) for granted.
When I was a student, books for me were rather expensive, and I got pissed every time some rich schoolmate would refuse to read a great, expensive book his parents bought for him just because it seemed "boring". Sometimes it makes me feel like the best things go to the people who don't deserve them. And sometimes, when you've been through a pretty rough financial patch you learn to appreciate things and people more.

jobs said...

teenagers now days doenst know who to appreciate thier parents, sad to hear this but it is happening.
good day

Lori said...

I think a lot of teens these days are just plain spoiled. Maybe each generation who moves back a notch says that about the next one though. Seems to me we have less teens working these days too.

Unless it's my imagination I see older folks in jobs traditionally held by teens, like fast food jobs and the like. Seeing older people working those trying to save their mortgages or can't retire on what they earn from one job.

If that is happening, then there are less teens who actually work for the money they spend and they think it grows on trees.

I have never sen a generation of kids own so much "stuff" either. In my day, we got ONE thing we wanted most on our Christmas it seems kids get nearly everything they want. It will be interesting to see what happens in a hurting economy when "stuff" isn't so readily available... something tells me school shootings will go on the rise.

Rene' Morris said...

I am so very proud to say that my children are like the second girl. They're very happy and appreciative. You always manage to bring tears to my eyes. My oldest son once told me, "Mom, we live in the country, we wear what is clean." I never laughed so hard in my life. I grew up in the suburbs, wore clothes from the mall before Walmart had anything "good." I'm lucky, my kids just really don't care about things. :-D

amanda said...

gosh, i see this kind of crap all the time. i live within walking distance to duke university. what i generally see is spoiled children getting a high dollar education. you know when i typically see this kids? tuesday or wednesday nights at the bars. they proceed to get drunk and rowdy on a tuesday when they should have their butts at school studying. it makes me want to call their parents and tell them that little johnnie and suzie bastardass are literally pissing away all of their money.

god help my children if they underappriciate all that my husband and ex-husband do for them.

Pand0ra Wilde said...

I see more of this than I like, staffing a convention with the major congoers being teens and young adults. It's just plain sad.

Vienne said...

Wow this one pushed some buttons (mine included).

@Miss W: I hear you. When I lived on campus one of my suitemates would receive a $1,000 check every month from her parents - for pocket money. Not for tuition, books, board, etc. That was already taken care of. Can you believe it? A grand for a freshman to blow on whatever. Asking for trouble. I used to imagine what a shock she'd have after graduation, when she'd get a job and not have that kind of money to burn through. Honestly, I looked forward to that! Who knows, her parents probably still give her an "allowance".

@Jobs: Agreed.

@Lori: Just today I bought a McMuffin from a woman who looked like my grandmother. She was pleasant enough, but you can't tell me she wanted to be there working. I agree with you about the 'stuff'. Seems every kid walking down the street is holding an electronic gadget. I sure hope you're wrong about the school shootings, although I can see how more teens could harbor resentment these days.

@Rene: How blessed you are. I'm sure you had a big part to play in how your kids are today.

@Amanda: Hey, you may have something there. I think we need some kind of informant service for teens & young adults these days. I wonder how many parents would be shocked and disappointed with their kids.

@Pandora: I would love to eavesdrop at one of your conventions. I may have to check the calendar of events around here for a potentially juicy one.

John Smith said...

Sweet blog!
Thought you might want to put a contact me widget on your blog. So that I could contact you and your other readers!
Contact Me Widget

Anonymous said...

It is simply amazing the differences you can see between people if you just take the time. So many people really don't appreciate just how much they have.

asian massage said...

The words has spread out about this great blogs. Now I know why. It's unique in some ways. Great job!

Anyway, kids this day should learn how to respect the elders. There are other good kids still. But most kids this day only think about money and fames. I'll say appreciate the elders while they are still with you.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a perfect example of how we take things for granted, and when to appreciate the things we do have versus the things we don't.

I've written about this subject recently myself, actually. If you're curious, the entry is located here:

A minor complaint

P.S. I found you on the Gaia Online writer's forums. I'm happy to have found another writer of high caliber. It's inspiring and encouraging.

Vienne said...

Hello everybody, thanks for coming by.

@John, Thank you! That's not a bad idea. In the meantime, you can access my email through my Blogger profile, if you like.

@Sonadora, Yes and yes. In this time when most people are being pressured economically, I wonder if children who are used to a carefree lifestyle are having a hard time adjusting to the family being more frugal. Can you imagine the tension in some homes?

@Asian Massage, Thank you very much. You make a very good point. I forget which famous author said this, but I believe the quote reads, "The extent of love is never known until the hour of parting". I agree with you about appreciating elders, and all your loved ones, while they're here. Hard to do sometimes, but I try.

@Lunarcrystal, yes, it was such a contrast between the jeans girl and the one who bought the bridesmaid dress. And I imagine, between the two mothers, also, but I'll withhold judgment on that. I'm only going off the behavior I witnessed of the two teens.

Boy, things did heat up over there at Gaia! I just read all the thread updates. Thanks for being a voice of reason! I will respond later and also take my time browsing your article (I'm about to be late for work!). Best, Vivienne

*For those of you wondering, some people on the Gaia forums took issue with me observing others and posting what I see and hear on my blog. They see it as totally unethical. Others, myself included, consider it field research of public conversations. I'd be interested to hear what readers of this blog think about that. Now I really better leave for work!

heather (errantdreams) said...

To play devil's advocate for the jean teen, it's a tad odd that the mother has an SUV and buys her an iPod but not new jeans. I'd guess that either the mother's financial situation has changed for the worse recently and the teen just can't face it yet, or the mother has been making some rather odd choices in her spending priorities (thus probably teaching her child some strange values to place on objects).

I'm really happy for the teen who got the dress! It sounds like you were able to play a part in her getting something very special.

diy help said...

It's a nice story but somehow saddening cos it jz clearly shows how teenagers nowadays treat their parents. It's great to see the differences btwn the 2 and I've been like the 1st one before but later I repent and now I'm more to 2nd one ^_^

2sweetnsaxy said...

That story says so much!

Tommy Buettner said...

That story states VOLUMES!!!!

Kat said...

I agree that the 1st teen's attitude was rather ugly, BUT I would say the parents are at fault. Why do parents put up with that kind of behaviour? Why don't parents teach their kids proper life values and work ethic anymore? You can't spoil your kid and expect them to appreciate things.

amanda said...

kat, i agree with you. friends of mine chastise me b/c my 5 year old daughter has been doing chores since she was 4. they are not upset that she is getting paid $.50 per chore. they are upset b/c we make her do chores at all. they say that she's too young. i always counter with the fact that my parents never made me earn the money they gave me. now, as an adult, i am wreckless with my money. i think the younger you start these lessons the better. i certainly do not want to have a spoiled brat in the future!


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