Some people have yard sales as often as snakes shed their skins. Ours are infrequent as cicada invasions. Last year, my wife and I summoned the hordes with one of those end-of-an-era yard sales, selling a whole decade of childhood detritus - baby clothes, toddler shoes, cribs, board books, red wagons and training-wheeled bikes - and residual technology - boomboxes, a Soviet guitar, vacuum-tube televisions, a smattering of records.
It was a weekend of hellos and goodbyes. Hellos to the future owners of our past, goodbyes to young parenthood, to the 20th century. Hellos to the neighbors, as they emerged from their houses, and returned to their houses with stuff from our house. Goodbyes to the neighbors, some of whom we would never see again.
Hello-goodbye to the notorious early birds, who hover in cars and alight a half-hour before the sale opens, to score their particular worms. Also to the one who asked, "Cross pens, pocketknives or watches?" on Saturday, and, just to be sure, asked again on Sunday, this time yelling from across the street.
Hello-goodbye to the three-wheeled scooter we gave to our neighbors' 2-year-old daughter, who, suddenly overcoming her shyness and hiding behind her father's legs, leaned forward to kiss us.
Hello-goodbye to our meager collection of vinyl records, which we never played, since we never owned a phonograph.
Hello-goodbye to the awkward feeling of having someone scan across, pick over and reject all that you're finally willing to let go, yet nonetheless want to think is valuable, since it once meant something to you.
Hello-goodbye to the local Orthodox children who looked longingly at various goodies, without asking, on their way to temple on the Sabbath. They came back on Sunday, after school, to buy three Magic Tree House books, a gerbil wheel, a photo printer and a bird pendant.
Hello-goodbye to the neighbors we see every day but still don't know by name.
Hello-goodbye to the faculty colleague who bought a red wagon for his granddaughter, and who reports on its ongoing value every time I see him.
Hello-goodbye to the one who bought two books for 50 cents, and a cup of lemonade from our 7-year-old's fresh-squeezed lemonade stand.
Hello-goodbye to the woman we recognized from the church choir, whose eyes would widen and whose face would stretch — as if in fear — to reach the song's high notes. Now we've heard her speaking voice and seen her kindly smile.
Hello-goodbye to the guy who purchased the electric guitar I bought 20 years ago in Russia for $50 worth of rubles, a weird-looking axe that always worked but whose high E string would slide off the fretboard. His nephew had wanted to learn to play, and for $20 he would get his first chance to plug in and make noise.
Hello-goodbye to the day passing, sometimes so slowly you could see the grass grow, and sometimes - when a cluster of treasure hunters arrived, as they always do, in bunches - so quickly that it's as if you're drunk and time's record is skipping ahead.
Hello-goodbye to the romance of yard sales - the seller's longing to shed layers, the buyer's desire for hidden treasure.
Hello-goodbye to the African-American man, grizzled in late middle age, who drove up in a beaten and rusted truck packed full of old finds.
He carefully examined each item, stopped for a long while at a stereo and asked to hear its sound. Then he looked at an old television, like a heavy black cube. For his nephew, he said, who was getting started on his own, his first apartment.
We struck a deal, and he peeled off the bills from the wad in his pocket. I helped him hoist the old monsters into his truck. Then, looking away, scratching his neck, he asked for an itemized receipt, "in case I get stopped."
Hello-goodbye to this man's past, when he was stopped for being in the "wrong neighborhood" with "suspicious" stuff in his truck.
Hello again to all the stuff we thought would sell but didn't - the pink bike with training wheels, the Pack 'N Play, the antique chairs in need of upholstering - that the garage inhales back into itself and makes the car impossible to park inside all winter.
And, then, hello-goodbye to the last customer, the well-coiffed lady who wanted mostly to talk and buy books for her nieces. She trilled her r's, every word slightly new in her mouth. I complimented her accent, not wanting to pry, but wanting to know. Years ago, she shared, she came from Iraq.
Our dear friend, Nawal Nasrallah, I told her, wrote a wonderful cookbook of Iraqi cuisine, Delights from the Garden of Eden, and we had an extra copy inside. Would you like it? She would.
My wife found it and brought it out. We couldn't help but give it to her for free.
I can't wait to try some of these recipes, she said. I'll come back, she said, and I'll pay you with something I make.
Dear friend, wherever you are, we can't wait to taste it.