Sunday, February 05, 2006

Settling In - Part III

We Open a Goodwill… In Our Own Apartment

One month before we were scheduled to leave, my in-laws came from out of town, to help us pack, and also to take some of our things home with them.

Our children’s clothes were pathetic. We had been struggling the whole time since our kids were born, and it showed. Every single item of clothing the kids owned was a hand-me-down. Some of them were in good shape; those were my kids’ “good” clothes, the kind they would wear to a party or to visit the relatives, or to a doctor’s office. We gave those to the in-laws for future use, since none of my BILs had any kids yet. Out of what was left, about one-third was falling apart, so I discarded those. The rest were my kids’ everyday clothes; they were in good shape, so I took them to my church, where they were collecting the items for the needy. Two weeks later, I ran into a woman from church and she told me that they’d thrown away almost everything I’d given them, because the clothes were “in such bad shape”. Not sure what she was talking about; they were good enough for my kids.

At least half of my boys’ clothes was pink. Back in the 90’s Russia, no one cared about that stuff. Beggars can’t be choosers.

Our next job was to sell some of the books and all of the furniture. My lucky 10-volume collection of Pushkin went first. I had bought it four years before from a family that was leaving for America. Now it was our turn to sell it and leave. I wonder if the guy that bought it from me, has ended up in America too. He looked like he was willing.

With the furniture, I had a great marketing plan. This should give you an idea of our marketing skills, and tell you why we should never open our own business. Thing about our furniture was, half of it was brand-new – okay, four years old. We bought it in the year after we got married, at crazy prices. Another half was hand-me-downs from our relatives on all sides - old, beat-up chairs, tables, and even a small fridge that I got from my Mom’s aunt. What I decided to do was post a list of things we wanted to sell, and, right next to it, a list of things we would give away for free. My line of reasoning was, people would stop by for free handouts, see a new piece of furniture, and desperately want to buy it. I put the ads up on Saturday; my in-laws arrived Sunday morning. The parade of freeloaders started on Sunday afternoon.

My MIL watched in horror as our doorbell rang every five minutes, and a new visitor announced: “We’re here for free furniture”. The most memorable pair were a woman in her forties with a daughter in her late teens or early twenties. Apparently the daughter had just had a baby. They took a ton of stuff - chairs, tables, childrens’ furniture, the stroller, and the little fridge. They didn’t offer to buy a friggin thing. As Mom was scurrying around the room picking out possessions, the daughter turned to us and asked, in an extremely disappointed voice,

“Why is the refrigerator so small?”

My poor MIL just about fainted.

Three days had gone by and we hadn’t sold a thing, except for the crib that a guy from my old job bought off me. When we first met, I was 22, he was 19, and had a massive crush on me. We were a source of endless entertainment for the entire IT department. The poor guy kept inventing new ways to win my love, whereas in fact, all he needed to do was brush his teeth every day. Although, that wouldn’t have helped, either, as I had already promised Mr. Goldie I’d marry him. Now I had two children, the guy was married, and they were expecting a baby. And he was buying a crib from me. Life works in mysterious ways.

The story has a happy ending. Although we didn’t tell our neighbors of our plans, afraid that they would freak out, our neighbor next door somehow found out that we were leaving. Turned out, her son had just gotten married and was looking to move out. She bought all our furniture, and paid good money.

Finally, it was our time to leave. We made arrangements with a guy from our apartment building to drive us to the airport in the morning. The kids and I slept over at my friend’s place, and Mr. Goldie stayed in the empty apartment, guarding the cash. To avoid being robbed, we had spread rumors all over our small town that we’d deposited all the money we’d made from selling our stuff, straight into a bank account in America. But in reality, we had no clue how to do that, and wouldn’t probably have done that even if we could, since the account would have been in someone else’s name.

The Goldie has spoken at 9:33 PM

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