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If you build it they will come? Bosh.

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Last week I wrote about our upcoming garage sale. I wrote with optimism, because in my mind’s eye I could already see the dozens of people who would flock to our sale - people would be jostling with one another, maybe even elbowing one another to ensure that they managed to snatch up a particularly wonderful find.

I’ve since been informed, after-the-fact, that the universally-held wisdom is that “garage sale = thoughts of divorce.” Thing is, nobody warned me about that. They didn’t tell me that when couples sift through piles of old junk on a hot Friday afternoon, they’ll tend to argue about almost everything that a couple can argue about, such as when to do something, how to do it, and in what spirit to do it. Well, the Breadwinner and I wrangled our way through all of those disputes and more.

My husband was struggling with positivity. He was struggling with the process of digging through piles of possessions. He was struggling to love his nagging wife.

It was a microcosm of the worst of our married life…the Breadwinner’d agreed to this endeavor long ago, never imagining that at some point he’d be called upon to actually do it. He was grousing. I was propelling. He was demanding answers of me that I felt shouldn’t even be asked. (I mean, if they mattered, he should have thought of them himself, right?) A small sampling of his questions includes, “Why did we hang onto all of these clothes?” and “What are we going to do if it rains?” and “Why don’t we have tables?”

Let’s get one obvious thing straight mighty darned quick: In a marriage, “we” seldom really means “we” – it usually means “you.” My struggling-with-positivity spouse was actually wanting to know, “Where did you come up with all of these useless clothes?” and “Can’t you just postpone this since it’s going to rain anyway?” and “Why didn’t you go out and buy a bunch of $35 tables so we can have a properly organized garage sale?”

Any man should know better than to ask questions like this on a sweaty, tiring, tedious Friday afternoon when his wife is sorting through a variety of just-sharp-enough kitchen knives.

But we survived. In the end, even without tables, we had a fairly organized-looking garage sale of the type that I’d happily browse through myself. The afternoon was long and tough, but just as with other marital travails, we made it through. That is, we made it through until Saturday morning. Which is when things kind of slipped from our grasp and fell apart again.

It didn’t really matter that my husband had somehow not gotten the text about picking up a bunch of coins as change…or that neither of us had thought about signs. (We knew that signs are against city code, but a couple of little signs in our yard would have been nice. And we tried, but of course, as the Breadwinner had predicted, it was raining pretty hard, and the poster board we had at hand simply wilted like month-old lettuce.)

I’d planned that the garage sale would start at 7 a.m., which was pretty foolish, seeing as how it’s still pitch black at that rainy-October-day hour. I guess I was imagining that the crowds of people who were to arrive would be eager enough to rise before the sun, foregoing coffee and donuts to dig through our wonderful stuff.

Worst thing of all, though, was my advertisement. Two days before, I’d crafted a clever little announcement on an Internet garage sale site. I’d crafted this clever little announcement but had somehow failed to click the “submit” button. This means that, because I never clicked the “submit” button, my advertisement simply went POOF the instant I left the website.

And you guessed it. Nobody came to our garage sale. And by nobody, I mean one solitary couple came. Now clearly, I am grateful to that one solitary couple, because they saved me from absolutely and complete disgrace. Nonetheless, the Breadwinner and I sat in our garage, as rain dripped from a pitch-black sky that slowly lightened. Day dawned, gray and sad. And there we sat. It was like the dreariest part of a Dickens’ novel. In fact, ours may have been the loneliest, grimmest garage sale ever held anywhere.

We “built” it, as the saying goes, but “they” certainly did not come.

What did happen, however, was a microcosm of the best of our married life. Because my husband found his positivity. He didn’t at all mind doing what needed to be done. He had no trouble loving and encouraging his discouraged and bedraggled wife. He loved me in spite of my failings. And I loved him in spite of his.

So it was that, in those long alone hours, during which we found ourselves surrounded by damp garage-sale possessions (over which no dozens had showed up to jostle) was during those hours that the “you” of marriage truly became a beautiful and conciliatory “we.”