As the 20th century draws to an end, big changes are afoot for Stacy and her family. For one, her widowed mom Evelyn has been “living la vida loca”—she’s become a hoarder who isn’t taking care of herself. The family finds her an assisted-living facility that provides a lot of choices for its active residents, but Evelyn isn’t cooperating and spends all her time closed up in her room.
Meanwhile, Stacy is busy fixing up Evelyn’s house for sale and finds that she loves selling her mom’s unused possessions at the local flea market/auction. Close friend Mona also has a table nearby, and Don and his new wife sell antiques and clothing there as well. Stacy loves the multicultural hustle and bustle of her weekly days spent at the flea market.
After a busy day selling junk and defending the local Amish from the complaints of upper-middle-class interlopers, Stacy arrives home to find 11-year-old Sophie has been bitten by a loose pit bull and needs medical attention. Afterward, Stacy and Greg meet Mr. Jennings, a neighbor who helped Sophie, and try to find the dog so their daughter will not have to undergo a series of painful rabies shots. Sophie shares her awareness that part of the neighborhood has been overrun by drug dealers and other shady characters, whose landlords turn a blind eye to their activities. Stacy worries about how to sell Evelyn’s house in such a climate.
The director of the assisted-living facility shares a bit of good news: Evelyn joined in a bridge game and later had tea with one of the other participants, a doctor’s widow. Stacy is excited for her mom and offers to help Evelyn reciprocate with an elegant tea party of her own. But Evelyn is strangely reluctant to follow up on her new friendships—and when Stacy finds out why, it shatters their relationship.
Meanwhile, other bombshells are going off: Mary and JC are moving away, and Greg has a tempting job offer in Philadelphia. Stacy fears everyone, including her own family, is abandoning Arboria Park in its hour of need.
The auction house where Stacy is selling Evelyn’s household goods is based on Spence’s Bazaar, a local institution in Dover, Delaware. Unlike Evelyn, who sees the farmer’s auction and flea market as dirty, my parents were huge fans of Spence’s, and biweekly trips there were a staple for our family for many years. I still own and use a lot of housewares my mother and I bought there during my early adult years. Along with basics and junk, you can stumble across some beautiful and even valuable items. During the spring, summer, and fall, there are always tables full of fresh produce. Inside, you can find fresh meat and baked goods, as Stacy does. These pictures show Spence’s as it is nowadays:
And this one, taken by a photographer friend of my mother’s, shows the original Spence’s building, which burned down not long after the photo was taken:
Spence’s remains a hub of diversity in Dover; many races and nationalities are represented as customers and sellers. You will often see horses and buggies hitched up in the parking lot, as the local Amish and Mennonite communities are a strong presence. There’s not much you can’t find there, if you look hard enough. But local fans of the business often worry about how much longer it can keep going, as more and more area farms go out of business and are developed for housing and shopping.
Music isn’t discussed too much in this chapter (though Sophie has followed in her mom’s and cousins’ footsteps and started playing guitar). But a few songs from 1999 will suffice to illustrate Stacy’s confusion, as she navigates the hard changes confronting her family and neighborhood,
her own fight-or-flight desires,
and even the loss of her relationship with her mom.