I don’t think I’ve ever sold a “thing,” or if I did, I don’t remember it.
My older sister was a good salesman. She managed to sell a neighborhood kid a lump of chewed-up gum from the bottom of our pond by passing it off as a prehistoric rock, applying her extensive knowledge of dinosaurs to make for a convincing sale. Later, when a neighbor’s cat was run over in front of our house on the morning of the 4th of July, Boo quickly figured out a pricing strategy for selling seats, charging amounts ranging from a penny to a quarter as we kids waited in our pajamas for the Animal Control truck to pick up the already foul-smelling and crushed corpse. As Boo shoved kids aside to make room for one more high paying customer, I knew that it helped to be gorgeous and bossy, and have a sharp kick to control crowds and vector merchandise and services to the right individuals.
Somehow, by a very young age, I was already put-off by sales. I suspect if I analyzed it with greater care I would find that Boo had sold me a thing or two from time to time, having that older sister advantage such as she did.
The first thing I sold was me. As an eight-year-old, I would go around the neighborhood and knock on people’s doors and ask for work. The first few times I tried this, I had some bad experiences, particularly as one old biddy in the neighborhood took my help and withheld payment, finding some small excuse to cheat a child. From that, I knew it was better to go as a team and organized my friends into batteries to go around the neighborhood where we could offer to mow lawns, wash cars, care for animals and have the advantage that if anyone stiffed us, we could upend their flowerpots and deal them civil justice.
I liked working and was a hard worker. I could polish shoes faster than any kid I knew due to my anxiety with psychomotor involvement; I could bring up a great shine on even the most recalcitrant of leather surfaces. I was also very strong for a short and skinny kid, and very determined.
My mom admired my ability to work and my willingness, despite my shyness and fear of people, to get out there and find jobs. She admired that I wore out the knees of my jeans before the seat of my pants and bragged about it. She also bragged that I was determined, having come up against that herself more than once with me.
Ultimately, the best sale I ever made was made was to Mom. After her cancer diagnosis, I sprung her from the nursing home where she was drugged up and dying, got her help, made her eat, made her laugh, made her hope, made her slow down, stop and experience my love and forgiveness.
I miss what we became.