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                    OLD USED CLOTHING	

After I had been in the United States for a dozen and a half years, I discovered an American phenomenon -- "Garage and Yard Sale." The business of selling used belongings was totally unfamiliar to me. I had difficulty in comprehending that here in this promised land people actually bought used rags, clothes and junk. When I grew up in Finland after the war, people wore clothes until they were worn out and there were no more places to sew on more patches on a garment. If one was lucky enough to be the oldest child, he always got the new clothes. I was so blessed because I was the oldest of three boys. After I had worn my clothes, there was seldom anything left of them. So my two younger brothers also got new clothes. The old clothes probably were burned up in the fireplace. Now when I think back, I wonder what happened to things our parents disposed of because at that time our village had no dumping place.

The first time I was exposed to second-hand goods was when my mother, Etel, came to live with me for several years during my study years. One evening when I came home she was so excited for me to see what she had found outside the door of the house where I lived. There on the table was a pile of children's clothing, neatly stacked. Sarcastically I said to her: Why did you pick up rubbish that someone has thrown out? But she said: See how nice this clothing is. She picked up one garment after another and showed them to me. All were clean and durable. I was quite surprised at what I saw. I apologized for my curtness and ignorance. My mother wrapped the items in a big packet and sent them to her grandchildren. The clothing was welcomed.

Only after I had moved out into the northern part of New York state did I come to realize how widespread this phenomenon was. I was very surprised by all of the garage and yard sales there are during the summer. So it is = one person's junk is another man's treasure. In addition to garage and yard sales I found that other businesses also buy and sell used items. Among them are the Salvation Army, "Goodwill" and many consignment shops where one receives a percentage of the money when items are sold. It used to be that only the poor went to the Salvation Army to shop. No more. Now one sees nice cars parked outside the place. Inside the shop one sees well-dressed men and women who search for a bargain. Can it be a sign of the economical state of affairs?

The nearest city to where we live is Hudson. The city is known for its numerous antique shops. Every Wednesday when prices are dropped to half at the Salvation Army, one can see antique dealers fill their pickup trucks with wares that they later sell in their shops - with great profit - to people from New York City. Come and get it in a garage sale!

I remember when my mother came from Småbönders one summer to help my wife with a new addition to our family. One day my wife Bernice took my mother out to a garage and yard sale. My mother looked at what was for sale. She said in her Terjärv dialect: Junk - just junk!

Through the years my wife developed a discriminating eye for the fine and reasonable things offered at the second-hand shops. Our sons can thank their mother for most of the furniture they have in their homes. The used cars that we drive are also her finds. Last week my wife called me in the afternoon and asked if I would please go out and buy a bag of apples at an apple orchard. She said she planned to bake some pies later in the evening. She didn't have time to go and buy the apples because she was on her way to a therapy session. That meant she was going to see if she could find anything special at the Salvation Army and Goodwill.

The sun was shining and the trees were in beautiful autumn colors as I started out to shop. I hopped into my Miata sports car and was on my way. The car was polished and shone in the sun as I flashed by on the road. In my designer sunglasses and Mika Häkkinen cap on my head I was a sight to behold. When I arrived at the apple orchard, I stepped out of the car and stretched with dignity. Just then a young woman walked by and looked at me. She said: You look good!. I answered: Yes, I know it.

After I picked up my bag of applles, I returned to my car. In front of me, with short slow steps, an old man walked with a bag of apples. He was clad in worn wrinkled clothes and shoes with an old gray hat on his head. I felt sorry for this miserable fellow. With a brisk step I went ahead of him. When I opened my car door, the old man went by. He stopped and in an approving voice said to me: I think of myself when I see a man my age who drives a sports car. I said to myself, this wretched old man thinks he is in my league. When I drove out of the parking lot I hit the brake and stopped. There before my eyes was the old man in a new Mercedes-Benz luxury car! On the way home I admitted that I was down-hearted. I said to myself: If I could be in the same league as that man in the Mercedes-Benz, then I wouldn't need to drive around in my used junk heap.

When my wife came home that evening, she had her hands full of used items she had found at the Salvation Army and she enthusiastically held up her latest finds. With a sarcastic voice, I said: Why do you drag home junk that no one else wants? She looked at me with her Mona Lisa smile and said: But dear, you know that was how I met you! What could I say? My dear wife has good taste.

Donald Vidjeskog

Norden 2 Dec. 2011

English translation by June Pelo

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