Last Saturday I organized a garage sale for myself, my boyfriend, and his brother’s wife. I have only a few things to sell, but since I have to move across the country again soon (and covering my own expenses on this one), every pound and inch of space needs to be important. 

SIDEBAR: it is worth noting that I have a lot of stuff that no one but me would ever consider important. I even have some whose importance I question. I’m just trying to get rid of a few things that have gone unused for several moves. And even that is hard: I’ve sold things at garage sales and later lamented their loss. 

My boyfriend is moving to North Carolina at some point in the next year and wants “everything gone.” His sister-in-law recently lost her daughter and for her the sale was an opportunity to dispatch non-sentimental possessions and make a little bit of money for the granddaughter she’s now raising. She made the most last weekend, and I’m glad about that. 

I made $1.25 in eight hours of sitting in the humidity and mosquitoes.

All told, I spent a little over $7 on signs, $3 on price stickers and markers, and a couple of hours making signs and hanging them. My boyfriend made $20, $8.75 of which I confiscated so as to at least break even on supplies, if not labor. 

Several folks who stopped by mentioned that they found us  because of my signs.

SIDEBAR 2: Which is nuts because the last couple of garage sales I’ve had were Craigslisted and virtually sign-free (and I made actual money and got rid of actual things at them).

Nonetheless, my signs were pretty easy to read and follow.

Sign-making is a skill I have that has become almost completely useless now that you can order slick photoshopped posters from online copy shops with overnight shipping for practically nothing. Hand drawn signs, though. The whole thing reminded me about this junior high race for class historian that I lost in 1987. 

In the 8th grade, I wanted to be on student council because I thought it meant I could have an impact on things that mattered to me and get a jumpstart on amassing important “extra curricular activities” for my transcript. I was fat, unpopular, and a known nerd, so I knew I couldn’t get any of the sexy seats like president or treasurer, but class historian seemed like less of a long-shot than the others.  

I quickly learned that I’d be up against Grace Aguilar for the post. Grace was nice and smart and (unfortunately) a C-list popular girl. Her shaker sweater game was top-notch and she played some non-basketball sport, maybe volleyball. Once her candidacy was announced, I was secretly sure I’d never win, but publicly optimistic that the most qualified candidate would win and that was me. I was a great writer after all, and the job was to write down all the stuff the council did.  I was especially secretly sure deep, deep down, that we weren’t that unevenly matched, and if I ran a strong campaign and wrote a good speech, I had a chance. 

My mother helped me make campaign posters for several hours one evening after she’d worked a full day at the phone company. My mother was wildly artistic and creative all through my childhood. She wrote my name in different shapes and fonts on my grade school lunch bags every day for a school year, she sewed and crocheted my Barbies a variety of dresses, she helped me make a set of far superior fashion plates that I could use to design my own clothes (after I was frustrated that the plastic Barbie set of fashion plates only let you mix and match already-designed outfits), she created at least three of her own greeting card lines, and even made her new husband love-note pillow cases once (the six-year old in me is still grossed out by that). Whenever I get a crazy idea for a craft (like  wallpapered light switchplates that coordinate with a room), I am pretty sure that is my mom shining through.

We worked hard on those posters. I only remember two of them. One featured a Statue of Liberty (I looked up what she looked like in my encyclopedia set for the sake of accuracy), though I don’t remember the slogan, and another said “The AYES have it” and was covered with eyelashed eyes of different shapes and colors… There was probably one with a dolphin and maybe some presidents (historian, get it?), but that’s wild speculation all these years later. All told, I think we made 8 or 10 of them, in addition to “buttons” that were probably meant to be affixed to lapels/oversized Esprit tshirts with tape.

I thought they were really good. Most of the other campaign signage consisted of die-cut construction paper letters or gloppy poster-painted banners that just said “VOTE FOR TODD” or whatever. It was all stuff someone had bought or thrown together with little thought. Mine demonstrated my writing skills, my creativity, my diligence and industriousness. I secretly thought that maybe they were good enough to get even me elected.

Some friends helped me hang them during the long mid-morning break between 2nd and 3rd period a few days before the elections and I fished for compliments about them all through fourth period, lunch and probably 5th and 6th period, too. I asked people which was their favorite and I probably got more than a few honest compliments from kids I didn’t really know. 

When the final bell rang, I walked out of whatever classroom I had been in and noticed right away that a poster of mine was no longer where I’d hung it. I ran down the hall to check and that one was gone, too. My best friend Jenny came to tell me that others from the other side of the building were missing, too. Every single one was gone. There were still corners of tape with torn pieces of paper stuck to them in a few places, but otherwise there was no trace. They hadn’t even just torn them up in some trash can so that I could salvage the pieces. The rumor was that Darcy Bass, one of the B-listers and a friend of Grace’s, had torn them all down. Darcy never spoke a single word to me throughout all the six years we went to school together, though she was quick to sneer at me when I was forced to pass her in the hall. It was likely she did it, but it didn’t really matter either way. Everyone understood that I was not to win. And since life isn’t a John Hughes movie, that’s what happened. I still tried to write a good speech and I still gave it with all the heart I could muster, but Grace won.  I am sure I cried on the busride home, further humiliating myself.  I vaguely remember Grace apologizing to me afterward, saying she didn’t ask anyone to tear down my posters.

I know I shouldn’t have bragged about those campaign signs. I was a pretty intolerable kid (I’m still an almost completely intolerable office mate). And I am sure that Grace did a fine job at the whatever tasks are required of an eighth grade class historian. It’s the meanness of it that I can’t get past. I tried to rise above my station and was pitilessly and brusquely put back in my place at a far table in the cafeteria. I don’t think I’ve ever run for any kind of formal or informal office since. 

It is worth noting that Darcy briefly friended me on Facebook a few years ago, when everyone from high school was dog-piling on everyone else’s feeds. I added her at first, but I deleted her not long after, because I’m petty, maybe, or maybe because we were obviously never friends to begin with and there’s no sense in pretending otherwise now.