My fingers flew over the calculator keys as customers lined up at the cashiers’ table with shopping baskets full of Christmas ornaments, cookies, used books, ribbons, fabric, jewelry, bowls, candles, plants and more. Compared to my recent experience at last week’s garage sale, where I was dealing in such small numbers I didn’t need a calculator, this was high finance.
This was the annual holiday bazaar at Newport, Oregon’s Sacred Heart Church, ironically scheduled on Nov. 1. On Halloween I was decorating a Christmas tree at the entrance to the hall, standing on a stepstool putting up lights and pine boughs and crawling on the floor trying to figure out how to plug in the lights, two trees, an animated Santa Claus and a boom box without blowing up the church. Meanwhile the tide of people bringing in cookies, pies, muffins and other baked goods never stopped.
Other volunteers transformed the main hall into a wonderland of red, green and gold and turned classrooms into the Book Nook, Country Store, and Odds and Ends Room. Tables filled up with jewelry, holiday decorations, pictures, craft supplies, cookies and more, more, more.
This is our parish’s big fundraiser, and it is big. Volunteers spend months collecting and pricing merchandise and gathering donations for the raffle and silent auction. Two days before the bazaar, the religious pictures in the hall come down, replaced by quilts, paintings and signs urging people to buy more raffle tickets.
On Saturday, the kitchen area became a restaurant, where bazaar-goers noshed on soup, Chinese food, and pies, pies, pies (140!), served by parishioners turned waiters and waitresses. People started arriving before the doors opened at 9:00. By 10, the church parking lots were full, and cars lined the streets. It was loud, crowded and wonderful.
I was subbing for my friend Pat, who was sick. I had only planned to donate books and homemade loaves of pumpkin and banana bread, but I wound up staying to do a lot more. I don’t want to say thank you for getting sick—Pat, please get well ASAP—but I’m glad I got to do it.
I didn’t win the raffle, but I came home with two bags of treasures, along with a piece of apple pie and a warm heart.
Yesterday (Sunday), the bazaar reopened after the Masses, with all the leftovers on sale for half price. Whatever’s left will be donated to charity or saved for next year’s bazaar. When I return to church for choir practice on Tuesday night, the religious pictures will be back on the walls, and the tables back in their usual places, the warm feeling of family and friendship will remain.
I worked my way through college clerking at retail stores, selling sheet music, furniture, uniforms and housewares. Forty years later, the old skills still kick back in. If this writer gig doesn’t work out, I can always fall back into retail, at least once a year.