Husband & Wife Articles


Garage Visitations

Moms bond over sales and homespun advice

By Christina Capecchi

My education as a new mom came garage by garage, sale by sale, where I surveyed onesies and traded change for tips on surviving the early months. It felt so daunting to get out of the house with a newborn, seizing those precious breaks between all-too-frequent nursings to score a good deal.

“We don’t know what we’re doing,” my husband admitted to a grandpa presiding over a heap of baby clothes. I can picture Ted, pushing our wailing 1-month-old in the stroller, trying like a good dad to keep her out of direct sunlight, and then discovering her dirty diaper.

I was on borrowed time. I worked quickly, scanning card tables untouched by inflation and peeling off masking-tape price tags.
Garage-sale moms deal in dollar bills and nitty-gritty details: how the swing glides, where the monitor swivels, why the snack-catchers work so well. The sleepwear comes with advice on how to get the baby to sleep.

Hints from Hallmark

My first purchases as a garage-sale mom were attached to personal pointers, object lessons. A mint-green Easter dress from the mom down the hill, who advised me against highchairs with cloth-seat covers. Tutus and berets from another mom who quoted the store’s return policy and introduced me to burp cloths that double as bibs. Twenty-five cent smocked dresses from the mother of three who lives by the church and extolled footless sleepers for early-morning diaper changes.

We’d stop in the middle of a sun-soaked driveway, surrounded by Christmas ornaments and fishing poles, to swap stats: how much our babies weigh and eat and sleep, when they stopped breastfeeding, sibling spacing.

I’d return home from each garage sale with a new trick up my sleeve and a spring in my step. I had something direct, straight from the source, the woman who was once a new mom herself, who bought the 6-month strawberry romper and washed it and sprayed it with stain remover, who photographed her daughter in it and, three summers later, arranged it neatly in her garage and let me give it another go-round.

The fact that she was still standing, that she went on to birth additional children and made it out of her yoga pants, that she found the time to arrange onesies by size and bake brownies for a local charity and sell that romper felt like a great sign of hope.

When you become a mom, you experience an immediate connection to all the other harried moms out there, sharing knowing glances as you pass each other at parks and playgrounds, as you dig for the finger food and shush toddlers in church pews, as you corral kids through grocery stores and entertain them in the check-out line. You check out each other’s strollers, sippy cups and baby carriers. You empathize with the flower girl whose big moment corresponds with naptime. You notice who else is wearing pull-ups and pretending to bake a birthday cake in the sand. You are flooded with the reassuring knowledge that this stage too will pass, that eventually they’ll be sleeping, that we’re in this together.

I’ve come to see these moments as our own little visitations, harkening back to that holy exchange between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, two pregnant women rejoicing together and finding strength in each other. St. Luke reminds us to place a premium on our friendships, to celebrate our triumphs and commiserate over our trials, to pray for each other and laugh with each other, to build each other up.

It can be a sincere compliment to the sunburned mom hauling the wagon down the road or a quick text to a college friend raising her family on the other side of the country. Visitations happen in libraries and zoos and restrooms, at swing sets and ball fields and garage sales, on good days and bad.

Caring for little ones is not for the fainthearted, and summer brings sticky to a new level – sunscreen, sweat, popsicles. Last night we managed to drown the pet frog. This afternoon, with a high temperature of 88, we’re attempting the county fair. I’ll be looking for a fellow mama out there, whose unspoken support, smiled across strollers, will be sweet as cotton candy.

Christina Capecchi lives in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., with her husband, Ted, and their two girls, Maria and Jane.