A few years ago, I went with my wife to the Nashville Flea Market at the Nashville Fairgrounds, which takes place on the fourth weekend of every month.

I don’t remember the month we went, but I do recall it was very hot and I told her after we made that visit that it was a “one and done” for me. I’m not a big shopper and I don’t do heat well. I’m pretty sure I spent a good part of that adventure trying to find shade.

On the last weekend of last month, however, I somehow had a change of heart. It was a beautiful March Saturday that followed days of rain and dreariness. I knew how much my wife enjoys this monthly event, but rarely goes, so I suggested we give it a try.

She raised her eyebrows a bit at my suggestion, but I assured her I was serious.

As an aside, this was part of my commitment to making small changes in upper middle age. One of the things I am trying to do is to give another chance to activities I might have once scorned.

There are other small changes, such as listening more than I talk. Maybe I’ll share about this and some other life adjustments at a later date, when I have gauged my success a little more.

But back to the flea market. When we took the Wedgewood exit off 65 North, we were almost immediately in a line of cars heading east toward the fairgrounds. My heartbeat began to increase a bit because, in addition to my general dislike of heat and shopping, I’m not big on traffic and crowds either.

But with my commitment to small change with big impact, I relaxed and drove slowly in the line until we were close to the parking lot.

To my surprise, we made it to the parking lot in relatively short order. To my bigger surprise, we were waved right in and were able to get a parking place someone was leaving. Our walk up the hill to the main event was short, and the weather was still pleasant.

A big part of the flea market takes place outside. Since it was a nice day, I rather enjoyed strolling among the rows of various items offered for sale.

To say there is a little bit of everything is an understatement. One of the first places we visited was a big table that had nothing but colored tee shirts. I bet there were a thousand, and they were a dollar each.

And there were probably 100 people circling around those 1,000 tees, pulling them out and checking colors while holding them up to themselves.

How could we say no? Within minutes we had picked out one for each member of our family and received change back from a ten-dollar bill.

We went up and down rows of more clothing items, in addition to an array of tools, furniture, sporting goods, jewelry and books. Some things were new, while some were clearly pre-owned, as if some of the vendors had just unloaded stuff from their kitchens, garages or attics and lay them out for sale.

I am sure there is much more to it than that, and I’ll have to hand it to the folks who organize this event. It’s all remarkably orderly.

The inside areas seem to have more upscale items and more furniture and housewares, but still nothing crazy expensive. There are some vendors who will even take orders on custom upholstered furniture.

There were vats full of flatware – knives, forks and spoons — sold individually. I guess if you were looking for a particular pattern or trying to furnish a kitchen on the cheap, this would be a good avenue.

The most interesting item I saw? A totem pole made from six propane tanks, stacked on top of each other. Each was painted a different bright color with a face painted on it. It was tempting, but I think it would have stood out a bit too much in my Brentwood neighborhood.

We left with the tee shirts and a couple of other small items that I now can’t remember, but we didn’t need one of the big basket carts many of the patrons were rolling down the hill with their new treasures.

I’m not saying it will be a monthly outing, but overall, it was an enjoyable and interesting way to spend a morning. It built goodwill with my spouse and allowed us both to enjoy the outside.

So that’s at least one successful small change. Here’s hoping the others are as positive.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at

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