My Mom did want to go to the house one last time before the sale started. I warned her that it would be hard. We went on Sunday and it was hard.
I told her to just tell me anything she wanted to keep and I’d put it in the box. She did find some things that she especially was looking for so that was good. As we got into the car to pull out of the driveway I looked over at her and could see the tears streaming down her face. I took her hand and she said this was the hardest day of her life. I squeezed her hand and said I know it is. It was the most significant moment I’ve ever had with my Mother. We are both learning about letting go.
My Mom spent quite a bit of time in the family room and my dad headed for the bedroom closet.
The only thing he wanted (I’ve taken almost all of his clothes since he didn’t have nearly what my Mom has) and he found a blue and white checked pair of shorts that he wanted to keep. They were very old and very soft, so he was easy to please.
I finally told my Mom that she better go see the living room as that is where most of the most precious to her was displayed. She didn’t ask to keep much of anything, but it was overwhelming to see it all displayed in that way.
Things hadn’t been priced yet on Sunday. Good thing as she would have been freaked out by the price on many items. She looked at the high heel black shoes with the rhinestones. She said it was the first really good pair of shoes that she bought around the time she met my Dad. Even though they long ago didn’t fit her anymore, she’s kept them. It’s clear where the sentimental sap side of me comes from.
When I went back to the house last night to see the final set up and saw the price of 12.75 on her shoes, I decided I needed to keep those for her. I also did a bit more shopping, as I have been doing all along as they’ve set up, picking out things that I’ve decided to keep or that I thought were extra important to my Mom. These shoes clearly were significant to her. I also kept a silk oriental style dress made beautifully in Hong Kong in the early 60s. Not my style, but impeccable in how it was made. I remember that she always said how my Dad brought it back for her from one of his trips to Chicago when he was a wholesale furniture salesman. She was very proud of that dress. As I discussed it with a friend, she said of course keep the dress, you have the shoes! Not that either would fit me, nor could I walk in heels. But that was not an important consideration in this decision.
As I walked through the house on the eve of the sale I paused to feel the sadness of it all.
A life time of collecting memories through things acquired. We all do it.
I did get a chuckle out of my brother’s wedding ph0to from his first wife in the $2.00 bin. I left it there. I expect it to still be there unless someone falls in love with the frame.
I decided to be at the house this morning when the sale started. There was a pretty good crowd as usual at the start of the sale.
I have always felt a bit emotional at estate sales I’ve gone to over the years knowing that I was rifling through people’s lives. This time it was my parents lives. The sadness and melancholy grew stronger as I watched people gather their items.
Nothing prepared me to my reaction to this couple who came in and bought all of the vintage baby cloths most of which were mine. Luckily I had pulled a few things out on Sunday that my Mom said she made for me before I was born. I debated about keeping a few more over night, but they now were going someplace else. I decided that was enough for me and left to let the estate people to do their thing.
Memories, so many many memories.
Lee GutowskiJanuary 22, 2015
Terry — So poignant. I appreciate what you’re going through, even though I haven’t been to this stage with my parents. Both are still healthy and capable in their mid-to-late 70s. However, soon they’ll be putting their house up for sale. Thank you for helping others understand and feel the process through your documentation of it.
Love to you and your folks —
terryJanuary 22, 2015
Thank you Lee.
Scott GydesenJanuary 22, 2015
I’ll give you $2.50 for my wedding picture. With or without the effin frame.
SusanJanuary 22, 2015
Thank you Terry. An incredible chapter.
John MartyJanuary 31, 2015
Wonderful story, lovingly told.
Thanks for sharing it, and thanks to Jon Tevlin for alerting us to it.
Elizabeth GaidaFebruary 1, 2015
Thank you for sharing your story.
When it’s time to let go | NewsCut | Minnesota Public Radio NewsFebruary 1, 2015
[…] The column is based on the work of their daughter, Terry, a freelance photographer who has been documenting her family’s transition on her blog. […]
maxine jeffrisFebruary 1, 2015
Thank you for sharing your family with us.
My brother and I have pared down our parents’ things several times over the last 15 years and now I must have an estate sale for my own things. I have many heirlooms and also keepsakes from my daughter who died from an accident in her home in Oct, 2014. Needlesstosay, her things especially tug at my heart.
After 45 years in my three bedroom home, I must move, due to purchase by eminent domain, to accomodate widening of Hennepin County Highway 53 (66th Street) in Richfield. There is probably a photo story in that, too, as it is disrupting the lives of 18 households, many of whom are feeling less cooperative than I, and some are quite old.
Though I am healthy, at 71, it will be best if I go into somethng smaller, and I have so much furniture, books, pictures, dishes — the usual things, things, things. Who knew my mother kept scrapbooks!?
My mother, at 89, lives in an assisted memory care facility. She now has only her clothing, toiletries, wheelchair and a baby doll that wanders off now an then (as do knick knacks and jewelry, if I am foolish enough to bring them). Sometimes things show up again in someone else’s room, sometimes under their beds, sometimes never. Mom never expresses any longing for her things. In fact, I can “re-gift” her with her own stuff, and it’s all new to her.
I’m sure you’re having many responses to your excellent piece in the Sunday paper, but if you have time, would you let me know if you were happy using an estate sale company and, if so, which one you used.
All the best with your parents,
terryFebruary 1, 2015
Oh Maxine, your story has taken my breath away. I want to talk with you about all of this. Please email me and I will email you as well.
Minnesota Prairie RootsFebruary 2, 2015
I can absolutely relate to this given my siblings and I went through my mother’s house this past summer and fall in preparation for putting it on the market.
My moment of came when we prayed before eating a meal there for the final time on the dining room table hauled to the garage. Such an incredible sadness swept over me.
I still regret that my mom was unable to say a proper goodbye to her home. She was seriously injured in a fall and could not be there. She’s since recovered and, outwardly, seems fine with her move from house to nursing home to assisted living. But deep down, I can only imagine the sense of loss she feels.
This is a beautiful piece you’ve penned.
Lee HedinFebruary 4, 2015
I read your article Sunday and it tugged at my heart. Put yourself in the same position that your parents are in and you realize that someday it will be you and your stuff.
My friend gave me the purse from her wedding which was from the early 60’s to sell in my garage sale. I couldn’t sell it!
Too many memories. I’m saving it for one of my granddaughters to use as something old for their wedding.
God bless you and your parents. I’m sure it is very, very hard and sad to move forward.
Thanks for the great article.
I better start downsizing now so my kids don’t have so much to do.
I hope your parents stay well for many years to come.
Jennifer LarsonFebruary 19, 2015
I can relate to moving a parent out of their home. I kept alot of my mother’s furniture as I was so attached to them myself. I let go of a few over the years as my own family changed and expanded. Now that I’m getting closer to that age I find the need to let go of more than I usual do at garage sales as I doubt if my own children are going to want the items I’ve cherished. After reading your story, the emotions your mother had I feel myself. Hard to go through, I hope they’ve adjusted well to their new environment.
Steve KApril 3, 2015
Thanks for sharing as we are dealing with the disposition of our cousin’s estate. Our daughter works at The Waters and really likes interacting with the residents. She is going to start drawing portraits of them. She mentioned a very nice couple. I will ask her their names.