It was touted as the world’s largest yard sale, although I think that more than a slight exaggeration. But once a year, as soon as the dogwoods put on their spring show, vendors from around the Atlanta area began culling their wares from attics and basements. It was held at Stone Mountain Park, a massive multi-acre venue surrounding a granite carving of the most prominent “sons of the South,” and indeed, a Southern version of Mount Rushmore.
For my family, it had become an annual pilgrimage, lured by the abundant sunshine and warm temperatures, which followed the cold winter months. The promise of some amazing find or prized treasure among the castoffs for sale was seductive, even to young boys, who ordinarily folded their arms and protested mightily over any excursion with the word “shopping” in it. But there were cool toys to be discovered, interesting boy-stuff, and they quickly learned that some other kid’s broken-in baseball glove could be had for a song. After that first year, they were hooked as they too, looked forward to the annual event.
We usually made a day of it, poking around the odds and ends from the rows and rows of tables, laden with what could only be classified as junk. We would laugh at the obsolete appliances, eight track tapes, and chipped china. It was fun to unearth some strange item as we guessed its purpose. We took snack breaks under the shade of the massive trees, sharing bites of what we called “fair burgers” and chili fritos. Some years, we found real gems, rare finds, but usually it was more about the day and time we spent together than the stuff we might bring home to our already filled closets and garage.
The final year of the sale was bittersweet. It coincided with a time of transition for us, since the boys were growing up, involved in their own activities and friends, no longer eager to spend their weekends on family outings. As the day wore on and the sun began to fade, we slowly walked the path through the venue, wanting to savor those last few moments.
We reached the last booth, an impressive spread sponsored by Kroger. The man in charge proudly announced that they would be closing in thirty minutes. “Fill up a box for five dollars,” he said. We looked around at the various novelties and then each other. “Find a box,” I whispered to my boys. And in the blink of an eye, they disappeared. I began to pick up various items, but soon caught sight of something in my peripheral vision that made me laugh out loud. In the distance, I could see a big, really big (yes, we are talking HUGE) box bobbing down the sidewalk. There were three determined boys carrying it, and they belonged to me. We proceeded to fill it up with stuff – and notebooks- lots and lots of notebooks. “We can always use these," I said smugly, imagining all the money I could save on school supplies. We struggled to get it in the van, but proudly brought them home packing them into bundles, ready for a notebook emergency, should one ever occur. (And yes, they often did on a Sunday night, after most of the stores were closed.)
Thirteen years ago, when we moved, we schlepped the notebooks to our new house. I am not so sure that it was out of necessity as I think it was to preserve a special memory, one we often laugh about at family gatherings. And yes, twenty six years since that spring day when the dogwoods bloomed, I am still holding on to those notebooks.
As I begin to brainstorm, jotting random notes and historical data for the plot outline of Angelique’s War, I do so in a yellowed notebook from the stash in the basement. It brings me a strange comfort, a bit of nostalgia. The path for the new is often built on the foundation of the old, I think.
And I chuckle at the memory of the best five bucks I have ever spent.