“Mom, can we get this one, please?” begged the little boy, eyeing the whimsically designed game that Chloe and Sophie adored when they were his age. He examined the brightly colored box and its well-worn contents with the kind of childlike yearning my girls haven’t expressed in years. When his mother gently refused to buy it for him, he eventually chose another toy and walked away happy. He reminded me of Lisa, the young girl who fatefully discovered the slightly damaged, but ever-so-lovable Corduroy in the department store.
Except the little boy wasn’t in a department store. He was at our first-ever yard sale. After a year of procrastinating and accumulating cartons in our basement, we finally put price tags on countless memories and displayed them on tarps, protected from the early morning dewy grass of our front lawn.
The clothes I used to wear when my office was in a law firm. The serving trays we received as wedding gifts 22 years ago and never used. The small puzzles of farm animals and Disney characters the girls assembled with glee and pride with their pudgy little fingers.
The magnetic chore chart (no whining! clean up your toys! use the potty!) that hung unused on Sophie’s wall since she was two years old, now in the eager hands of a boy who lives down the street from us.
The blue and green table and chairs my mom bought for Chloe when she was a toddler. The set remained in her room until recently, having spent several years permanently buried under a typical teenager mess of clothes when it became too small to fulfill its original purpose.
“I love it!” cried the grandmother of the boys next door for whom Chloe occasionally babysits. The damage to the table itself – old paint, old markers – didn’t faze her in the slightest. The fact that her grandsons’ babysitter had used it since she was a little girl made it that much more special. She, too, walked away happy.
Cheap vases that accompanied flowers delivered to the house, usually arriving after I casually remarked to my husband that it had been too long since he last offered me a bouquet. The books we read to the girls before they knew their ABCs. Empty picture frames that once held our two-dimensional memories of Chloe and Sophie when they were babies. The dog bed that Truffle tried to destroy when he was a puppy.
The Hungry Hippo game that caused my husband and me to simultaneously groan every single time the girls asked to play it. As the pint-sized new owner walked away with it, I imagined her parents would soon be groaning, too.
The Keith Richards lookalike who bought an old mini stereo system with a dual cassette player and a shoebox overflowing with toy musical instruments. For a future grandchild, perhaps? He walked away happy, putting it all in the trunk of his 1980s-era Cadillac sedan.
Chloe’s first tennis racket, now another girl’s first tennis racket. Sophie’s first bicycle. An old coat that made me feel cozy and protected during some excessively cold winters. Old printers. Coffee makers that failed my husband’s very high French threshold for acceptability. Cotton placemats we once received as a housewarming gift, still in the original packaging.
The keyboard that withstood the abuse of a frustrated Chloe as she tried to learn a new song for her piano lessons, now in the hands of an exuberant woman who had always wanted to learn how to play.
The hours wore on. As we started to prepare for donation everything that hadn’t been bought, a latecomer stopped by and closely examined a jewelry box my husband offered me more than a dozen years ago. After a couple of minutes, the man drove away. He returned a short time later with his wife. “I’d like to show her the jewelry box,” he said. She approached our lawn with a shy smile on her face.
Were they newly married, I wondered? Would the box serve as a placeholder for the jewelry she already has or for the pieces she’ll acquire in the future? The husband bought her the box and the two of them walked away happy.
The money we earned yesterday did not nearly compensate for the hours we spent preparing for the sale. As we collapsed from exhaustion later that evening, we unanimously agreed that our first yard sale would also be our last.
And yet…all those smiles on the faces of strangers as they carted away the physical manifestations of our memories to make new memories of their own…priceless.