Recently, I had the distinct privilege of being called upon to drive for the Saturday morning yard-saleing festivities of my Nana, Aunt Fannie, and Aunt Mary. Three sisters. The matriarchs of our family.
These sisters span very similar heights… all slightly teetering between the 4’11 and 5’0 foot mark. Born in Macdony, IL (Macedonia to those of us who are not lucky enough to have been born there) in the late 1920’s into the mid-1930’s, they have seen much that most of us haven’t seen. Their family farmed as The Great Depression swept across America in what has become known as the worst economic crisis this country has ever experienced. When most everyone was lacking something, this family cultivated as much love as they did corn, tomatoes, and beans. Each going into differing sectors of the medical community, the three sisters moved multiple times throughout their careers though each ending up living within 15 minutes of each other upon retirement. For several years now, they have made the Saturday morning yard-saleing ritual a reality. This is a very important process. One sister will scan the newspaper and stake out the sales ahead of time; they will congregate at one house to drink coffee, trade vegetables from the garden, and dictate a plan. You see, strategy is very important with this kind of thing. One must hit the correct sale in such a time that the good stuff has not been bought and the sale not been deemed “picked over.” Once the plan is made and the routes established, the car must be cleaned out of excess junk to make room for more. The supplies must be gathered. With the money bag of quarters, dimes, and pennies in tow and any close-to-expiration grocery store coupons, they set out to sale.
On this particular Saturday morning, I was awakened from blissful slumber to drive the three sisters on their weekly enterprise. After the pre-sale rituals were performed, we congregated in my car… we were off! At the first sale we came to, a Johnny Cash CD was purchased for the wallet-breaking price of 10¢. So now we were set, four women hustling down the highway through the Burning Ring of Fire to the next sale, chattering away about what store has the best deals that week or who won the award for the most achy back that day. Our plan was somewhat delayed when each sister would see something that her grandchildren absolutely needed and an early- morning call had to be made. More often than not, the grandchildren didn’t actually have to have that very specific thing that day, believe it or not. So on we went to more sales, finding more bargains, making more new friends. We grew hungry after such an eventful morning—but not to worry—McDonalds had their sausage Mcmuffins on sale. This is a particularly wonderful sale item because the top can be removed and eaten with jelly while the bottom half with the sausage can be eaten as a sandwich. I was honored to have been included in the senior coffee deal– .55 cents off always helps.
As we sat eating and laughing, I took a second to reflect… I was in the presence of 80 years of love and faithfulness. They were steadfast. These sisters had been through it all together… the very happy moments and the very painful ones. They had learned lessons that I hadn’t yet. They had seen beauty that I can only yet imagine. They had fought and cried together. They had shared each others daily woes, responsibilities, and joys. They had cooked casseroles for each other through funerals and hospital stays. They had been honest with each other. They had hurt each other. And yet, they had held each others hands through life and leaned on each other when it was just a little too hard to stand alone.
I realized that not many people understand that kind of commitment. We live in a day and age that it is very easy to give up on people who make us angry, who don’t share our views, who we are afraid of, or who we think just don’t make us happy. We hastily commit to them when the times are good and happy and easy, and we quickly abandon them when the harder times roll in. This sentiment is reflective of our society which generally discards something that isn’t pleasant, or fruitful, or immediately appealing. It’s the easier way to go, but I think it’s pretty detrimental. Detrimental to our work ethic… detrimental to our spirits… detrimental to our hearts. See, there’s something deep about sticking out that friendship, that relationship, that hard time… there’s something spiritual about not giving up on someone. There’s this connection that binds you together and helps you sleep in peace at night. It’s hard and it’s heavenly at the same time.
As we were leaving McDonalds with full bellies, a gentleman in a suburban who was backing out, almost hit me. Aunt Mary, who was in the co-pilot’s seat, addressed the man from the inside of my car, saying: “Well, mister, are you going to stop, or not?” I chuckled to myself because I knew that she had my back as she always had and always would.