Monday, October 18, 2010

True Tales of Yard Sales: Go Get That Cross!

Actually, this is a true tale of an estate sale, but I think it all works out about the same. This is a slightly older tale, from back when I didn't totally have my blogging shit together. But, it's still a good story, and there's no statute of limitations on those.

This one took place about a year and a half or two years ago, during the usually sale-less months of winter. I wasn't doing the booth yet, so we were out shopping for the fun of it.

The sale was in a grand old house in a neighborhood near ours. There were three stories, tons of rooms, an awesome attic, and decor that had not been touched since 1945, at least. Every room was just chock full of all kinds of antiques and goodies, many way out of my price range.

At one point, when I was walking into a bedroom, I got pushed out of the way by a woman coming out of the same room. Pushed out of the way, as in rudely shouldered out of the way with no "excuse me" or any kind of acknowledgment of my presence whatsoever. I would have just ignored her--there are no shortage of rude people to be found at these sales, after all--except that she was carrying the largest statue of St Joseph I have ever seen in someone's home. It was easily 3.5 feet tall.

Image 'borrowed' from Knit and Pray blog.

We're talking classic, pre-Vatican II, Catholic home devotional statuary, complete with the Child Jesus and the lily of purity and everything. Just the kind of thing that makes me go totally weak in the knees, and it's in the arms of one of the rudest bitches I've come across in a while.

I was consoling myself with the thought that it was probably way out of my price range, when I stepped through the bedroom door and saw a sick call crucifix laying on the dresser.

Image from

Sick call sets were staples in Catholic homes in the pre-Vatican II era, and are still in use today, just not as much. They were kept in homes in case a priest needed to make a visit to a sick person.

The face of the crucifix would slide off and stand up. The inside held a cloth, a bottle of holy water and a couple of candles. The priest would have many of the tools he needed to do his work when he got to the home.

I find them at sales from time to time, usually empty. I've only found one or two over the years that still had all the contents in them. This one was not only empty, it was in pretty rough shape to boot. The corpus was loose from the cross and the wood had swollen so that it wouldn't slide easily open. It had some nice inlay work on the cross, but that was about all it had to recommend it.

It didn't have a price tag on it, either. Since a lot of what I saw in the house was priced way beyond my pitiful little range, I figured that, even in this condition, I probably couldn't afford it. I was just about to put it down when I heard this hiss from the door "Go get that cross. That man has it. Get it from him."

Well, being the only person in the room at the time and holding the only thing that even slightly resembled a cross, it was pretty obvious who the whisperer was talking about. But, seriously, "get it from him"? As in, "grab it out of his hands and run?" Really?

So I turn around and who is standing in the doorway (of the room she just left, mind you), pointing at me? It's Ms Bulldozer with St Joseph, and she's ordering a young boy of about 12 to come take something out of my hands. The poor kid is staring at the floor, clearly embarrassed by the whole thing. And I'm thinking "Seriously, honey? You've got the nicest item in the whole damn house and you're trying to get your kid to snatch this puny little thing from me? It's on, babe. It's so on."

So instead of putting it down, I held on to it, turned, looked her right in the eye, and walked out the door. I had no idea at this point if I would actually buy the thing or not, but I sure wasn't going to let her have it. I carried it from room to room, frequently followed by Ms St Joseph and her brood (which actually included three kids). From time to time, she would actually point at me and say "There he is!" or "That's my cross." or some such nonsense. It was actually quite deranged.

After my second or third such encounter with Mama Dearest, my evil side kicked in. I'd wait until I knew she had seen me, and I'd set the cross down, but never quite take my hand off of it. A couple of times, I actually just caressed it with my fingertips, like I was considering leaving it. She'd really start whispering orders to her kids then, and I'd snatch it up again and walk on.

Finally, I got to the point that I folded my arms, cradled the cross in them and walked around the place like an ersatz St Therese.

Image from

I was kind of hoping to wait her out and then just leave the thing there, but my patience was wearing thin. So, I decided to go ahead and see what they were charging for it and then go. Sure enough, soon as I got in line to pay, she was right behind me, St Joseph and the kids in tow. I told the woman running the sale that it wasn't priced, and she looked it over thoroughly, then told me: "It really could be a nice piece, but it's in such rough shape. How about five dollars?"

That sounded good to me, so I paid her, crossed my arms again, cradled the cross in them, turned around to the crazy woman, nodded at her and left. As I was leaving, she was demanding that the woman running the sale tell her how much I had paid.

Honestly, everything about that sick call set just paled in comparison to the statue she had, but she hounded me through the house for it. If I hadn't been so fed up with her, I would have waited for her on the porch and told her she could have it for twenty bucks. Or else offered to trade it for St Joe.

There are obsessions, and then there are obsessions. That bitch was obsessed.

No comments: