You’ve spent the last 26 years raising four lovely children into blessed adulthood. Your three girls have good, stable jobs. Two are married, and the third may never get married, and that’s just fine. She has two cats, three fish, and a vacation home in Vermont. Frankly, she’s doing better than you ever did.
The boy is still chasing down his lifelong dream of hand modeling in New York, but that’s fine, too, because before he left home to pursue this ridiculous modeling career, you made damn sure that he got his degree in finance. When this hand modeling dream ends in ruin (his hands aren’t even that attractive), he’ll be equipped to find a real job with a real paycheck.
So now, with all four of your kids having flown the coop, you’re rethinking the contents of your home.
You’ve served 10,000 meals at this dining room table. It’s time for something new. Something modern. That’s why it’s sitting on your front lawn, alongside the board games that your kids loved to play on snow days. And the dresser from the girls’ bedroom that is now in your sewing room. And the rolltop desk where your oldest spent long nights groaning about homework. Propped atop the desk is the crock pot that was recently replaced by something faster and smaller but somehow also bigger and better.
It’s spring. Yard sale season. The optimal time to clean out the clutter and make space for the new, or maybe just make space for space. The perfect time to reclaim the corners of rooms that have been absent for so long, hidden under piles of never-read New Yorker magazines and plastic bins of toddler clothes, and a cat tree for a cat that passed away during the first Obama administration.
After a week of prepping and pricing and plastering posters, the time has come. You’ll replace stuff with money, and if you earn enough, maybe you’ll finally be able to spend a weekend in Vermont since your youngest won’t let you use her home.
The scavengers arrive before the appointed hour, hoping to snatch up the best of your offerings. A steely-eyed man offers you $25 for the table and $5 for each chair. You blink in disbelief.
Did he not see the price tag?
You bought the table at the furniture store on Park Road that’s now a combination Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins. A vaping store now sits where you and your spouse loaded it into the back of Bill’s pickup truck. Bill and Donna were your best friends back then. Both had been in your wedding party. Donna might’ve been your maid of honor if your sister wasn’t so damn needy.
That was a long time ago. You haven’t seen Bill and Donna in more than a decade. There was no falling out. No conscious decision to stop seeing each other. One day they were your favorite movie and buffalo wings partners, and then, seemingly the next day, they were gone.
Did the steely-eyed guy really say $25? We bought the table for more than $800, and that was almost 30 years ago. A table like this could go for millions today.
The man counters with $45. He says the number like I should appreciate the fact that he’s nearly doubled his offer. What could he possibly be thinking?
Does he have any idea how many birthdays have been celebrated at this table? How many overcooked Thanksgiving turkeys have been eaten at this table without complaint, lest I give everyone in the house the silent treatment for days? This is the table where our eldest opened her acceptance letter to Dartmouth, thus dooming our plans for early retirement. This is where our youngest fell asleep during dinner one night, his face landing in his plate of spaghetti.
My spouse and I may have even had sex on this table one or twice, though admittedly that might not help the price much.
“Fine,” the man says. “$75, and $10 for each chair. I tripled my offer on the table and doubled it on the chairs. Final offer.” He rocks back on his heels. In his mind, the table is already his. This offer – enough money for dinner for two with dessert and a drink at Applebee’s – is supposed to do the trick.
It does. I tell him to leave. Get off my lawn. The yard sale is over.
What could we have been thinking? Why did we think we could ever place a price tag on these priceless memories? Objects that shared our space and time cannot be sold to strangers who have no understanding of their intrinsic value. These are scavengers that I have invited onto my property. Heartless, soulless bargain hunters. What do they know of the value of memories and nostalgia?
Modernity be damned. Now I understand those hoarders that I see on TV. Maybe not the newspapers and the empty boxes of Chinese food and ancient computers. That’s crazy. But this dining room table and chairs? And that box of board games? The rolltop desk? Who needs a little more space and a weekend in Vermont when I stare at those things that are so much more than things?
Yard sales are great for folks who want to dispense with their memories. I plan to hold onto mine, and never let them go.
Illustrated by Sean Wang