Garage Sale Treasures

(This was originally one of my weekly columns in The Beach Reporter newspaper in Manhattan Beach, CA.)

Having a garage sale every five years or so should be a requirement for every family. Not only do you get rid of things hanging precariously in the rafters of your garage and threatening lives, but you also get to know the true feelings of other family members. It’s better than therapy.

Take the following conversation (which may or may not have happened, I’ll never tell).

Wife: “I really think we should sell your surfboard. The last time you surfed the Beach Boys still had hair, and you didn’t get winded carrying the ice chest down to the beach.”

Husband: “I’m not selling my surfboard! Why, just the other day I was sitting in my office thinking maybe I’d take it up again.”

Wife: “That’s called fantasizing. What do you think we could get for it?” Continue reading

Thrift Shops

(Originally appeared in my essay collection Lake Forest Moments.)

One of the best places not to be seen is the Lake Forest Thrift Shop. Maybe it’s a leftover feeling I have from the days my mother dragged me around to garage sales, but I can’t walk into a thrift shop without a sense of furtiveness. Like if someone sees me in there, they’ll think I’m looking for cheap, used items, which means I must not be able to afford the new item, which means I must be down on my luck, which means I’m a failure, which means… you get the idea.

Perhaps you have to be brought up poor to get this nervous, sweaty-palm feeling whenever you are confronted with other people’s discarded things. (Think Scarlett O’Hara’s impassioned cry, I’ll never go hungry again…) I react the same way when I see used clothing, I’ll never wear my sister’s shoes again

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Bittersweet Summer

(This essay originally appeared in Main Line Today magazine.)

There comes a time every summer when you finally get your well-deserved week at the Jersey shore. You’ve managed to squeeze a week in between sports, dance, sleep-away, and tennis camps and the beginning of school. Your packed and overloaded family car resembles a suburban version of the Beverly Hillbillies as you careen joyously into Avalon or Stone Harbor or Ocean City, the entire family singing along to the soundtrack of The Sound of Music. Summer vacation is here at last – the kids have no scheduled activities, you and your husband have coordinated a week off, and the sun is shimmering benevolently over the Boardwalk. Aahh, the dog days of summer…

Fast forward one week. You never noticed it before but it is quite possible that you are the only truly sane, normal person in your family. How this fact has eluded you when you have lived with these people for decades is a mystery. You start thinking that maybe, just maybe, it is time to go home. If you have experienced any of the following phenomena, then perhaps you truly have been at the Jersey shore too long. Continue reading

Men Who Diet and the Women They Drive Crazy

(From my essay collection “Second Thoughts,” columns from The Beach Reporter.)

I recently attended a support group for wives of men who are dieting. I wasn’t sure what to expect, since I’m not a support group type of person. But I was a desperate person.

I didn’t necessarily want to share my story, but I thought I might learn something from the women there. Something that would make me feel I was not alone. We wore name tags and sat in a circle. Normally I don’t like sitting in a circle and I don’t like to share things in groups.

Vanessa was the first to speak. She was a slim, intense woman who seemed friendly with everyone there. She said, “Well, thank goodness Howie is almost at the weight he was when we got married twenty years ago. I don’t think I could take much more. The last month has been a living hell. I mean, just because he’s on a diet doesn’t mean the whole family has to starve. I can’t have any food in the house that doesn’t come from the fruit or vegetable group.” Continue reading