I adore secondhand shopping, but my neighbours’ yard sales made me nervous

My least favourite memories are the involuntary ones – the ones that flash up in the mind’s eye without warning, like a computer processing error. Even painful memories aren’t so bad if I’ve summoned them, but for them to appear randomly like that? Well, brain, that’s just rude.

It happened last week, walking home. I noticed some neighbours in their front gardens, each having a yard sale.

Ordinarily this would be a dream. I adore secondhand shopping. I loved charity shops as a kid (truthfully, the only place we could afford); as a retro-loving student (confounding sixth-formers with shirts about Frankie and the mystery of why he needs to relax); and, now, as a hub for sustainability.

But here on the street, hands weighed down by a four-pinter of milk and a bag of rice, a childhood memory of visiting a friend washed over me.

“I had that same jumper,” she said idly about the one I was wearing. “But I put it in the charity.” And that’s when I realised it was probably hers. I fretted that she’d find out – that everyone would – and I would be “rinsed”, hung out and left to dry. I never charity-shopped near home again.

Back to the yard sale. “Won’t it look bad if the neighbours see I have their things?” I wondered. Yet no one else at the stalls seemed fazed. It was only me at the edges, nervously shifting from foot to foot.

And so I am reminded that, though childhood is something we live through, it’ll be years until we are over it. Perhaps adulthood is just an exercise in overcoming, in growing, and pushing past old fears.

I see a sparkle from a neighbour’s table – a vase calling to me. I go, hoping to improve my home, and maybe even myself.