Though I don’t need as many things now as I once thought I did, I have not stopped going to yard sales. In this ever more digital, frenetic culture, the puttering, dizzying ways of homegrown yard sales is always a welcome surprise, relief and a bit of free theater. And, truth be told, there is usually something I think I “need.”
For those of you similarly blessed, or afflicted, I want to share what I think might be an early ode to our yard sale culture. In 1862, poet Christina Rossetti wrote The Goblin Market, a bizarre, suggestive, long poem about two young girls who go to a mysterious, ominous market. It is well worth looking up. Here are a few lines from it:
“Down the glen tramp little men. / One hauls a basket, / One bears a plate, / One lugs a golden dish / Of many pounds weight... / Wondering at each merchant man. / One had a cat’s face, One whisk’d a tail, / One tramp’d at a rat’s pace, / One crawl’d like a snail.”
The humble yard sale is rarely as dramatic as all that, but its cousin, the flea market, can come close. Home to dedicated vendors, often gypsy-characters, flea markets draw an odd constellation of “pickers” of the sort often spotted early and late at yard sales. There are fewer and fewer flea markets in the region. The legendary Maybrook Flea Market, at the old drive-in, closed in 2000. It’s now a senior housing complex. But there are still active flea markets around, like the Miedema Family Marketplace in Slate Hill, the Beacon Flea Market and the Stormville Airport Flea Market – all with websites!
It’s really the deep need for the unexpected that draws people to flea markets and yard sales. In a world of rules and regulations, the possibility of a cat-faced man or a vendor with a tail is, well, refreshing. Just as they did 150 years ago in Rossetti’s verse, the vendors still beckon of a lazy Saturday: “’Come buy,’ call the goblins / Hobbling down the glen.”