It’s About Time by
(90 Stories)

Prompted By Yard Sales

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Some Saturdays we’d get up before dawn, eager to hit the yard sales before the general public, often before things were even set out.

Ric was a seasoned picker. He taught me to keep an eye out for those special items that spoke to me.

Ric was a seasoned picker. He taught me to keep an eye out for those special items that spoke to me. And just like that, quietly, without consciously doing so, I began to embrace what I deemed beautiful ugly.

I slowly collected imperfect artifacts that had served their purpose, been replaced, cast out, left behind. I came to covet rust and patina, thoughtfully designed objects held in hand during the course of everyday living…humble hand tools with darkened iron and worn wood handles, heavy Bauer mixing bowls, measuring tapes and rulers, wooden spools of half-used thread, partially-empty perfume bottles, played-out toys, worn-out playing cards, smooth Bakelite poker chips somehow soft and warm to the touch…hidden histories and souvenirs with their ordinary secrets and passions lying just below my touch.

Sometimes Ric bought me a treasure: A small bud vase made of burlwood; with its uneven gnarled texture, it looked like something that had tried to turn itself inside out. An inexpensive but beautiful ring with a moss agate stone; when I held the stone up to the light, I could see an indistinct natural world inside, tiny bits of moss green and rust-colored flora suspended in trapped air. A tarnished silver hand mirror, reflecting a refutation of linear time as my eyes peered at once into the past, the present, and the future.


Profile photo of Barbara Buckles Barbara Buckles
Artist, writer, storyteller, spy. Okay, not a spy…I was just going for the rhythm.

I call myself “an inveterate dabbler.” (And my husband calls me “an invertebrate babbler.”) I just love to create one way or another. My latest passion is telling true stories live, on stage. Because it scares the hell out of me.

As a memoirist, I focus on the undercurrents. Drawing from memory, diaries, notes, letters and photographs, I never ever lie, but I do claim creative license when fleshing out actual events in order to enhance the literary quality, i.e., what I might have been wearing, what might have been on the table, what season it might have been. By virtue of its genre, memoir also adds a patina of introspection and insight that most probably did not exist in real time.

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Characterizations: well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Whoa…love the line “A tarnished silver hand mirror, reflecting a refutation of linear time as my eyes peered at once into the past, the present, and the future”. Pure poetry.

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    Do you collect these things for your art, Barb? I love your image of the tape measure pig. I suppose I could have had a yard sale when we moved, but it was Covid-19 times and the best we could do was give things like my grandmother’s tea cups (of course, none of my kids wanted them) to Goodwill. I want to think someone liked them and bought them for very little money.

    • I no longer collect, Laurie, because I’m just no longer drawn to these types of objects, but despite the fact that I gave away enough stuff to fill that 10×10 storage unit, I still have a hoard of favorite items. I do sometimes take photos of them which I then use to make greeting cards, artbooks, and calendars. But now I look the other way when I pass a yard sale…I made myself a promise not to bring one more thing into the house unless I take something out. Of course I’ve broken the promise countless times, but at least I think twice before I buy anything. I did get rid of my grandmother’s china but now have my mother-in-law’s china in its place. It’s a sentimental thing now more than anything.

  3. Marian says:

    I agree with your one item in/one item out strategy, Barbara, in our current times. I do love your caring for the fascinating but imperfect objects you did collect in the past. It’s comforting to know that someone cared about them in a new way.

  4. Suzy says:

    I love your poetic descriptions of your artifacts. But I have so many questions. Who was Ric? Did you really post that ad saying “must take all or nothing”? And did one person actually come and take it all? I can understand (sort of) wanting to get rid of everything in one fell swoop, but that seems like too much to ask. I think I prefer Risa’s version where she invited friends to come and fill up bags with whatever they wanted.

    • I’m so glad you asked, Suzy! Well, not about Ric…he’s an old boyfriend. But yes, I really did post an ad like that, and one person came and took it all. I had “collected” SO much stuff over the years, not just from yard sales and such but just in the course of living. And since I kept moving and having to schlep it all from one place to another and then the last place was so small I had to rent storage space for it, I finally decided enough was enough. Of course I removed what I did want, and packed up several boxes for donations. And two friends and my daughter did come and take what they wanted. I don’t even remember what all was in there any more…the only thing I do know is that I don’t miss any of it!

      • Wow BB, your creativity always stuns! And what a sweet little piggy tape measure!

        Reading the stories about giving away beloved objects I thought of what my friend Lynn did when her sister succumbed to cancer.
        Lynn posted pictures of her sister’s many pairs of earrings on FB and asked friends to chose the ones they liked.

        So now I have a lovely pair and think of Lynn and her love for her sister whenever I wear them.

        • Aw, thanks, Dee…I love that little tape measure. Rewinding it via the tail is the fun part.

          I think wearing something that someone wore in life is the most special way of remaining close to them after they have passed.

  5. Risa Nye says:

    Such lovely descriptions of your found items! There was a little cedar box that I bought at a flea market many years ago. I spent more money on the piece of velvet I bought to line it with than I did on the box, but I loved that thing so much it earned a mention in my book about the fire. I really enjoyed your beautiful prose here.

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