I was thrilled that my son chose to have a garage sale as part of his Bar Mitzvah project. Not only would he raise money for a worthwhile cause but we were also long overdue for a closet purge. Happily, I scoured the house, loading box after box with outgrown clothing, forgotten toys, discarded board books, and other useless knick-knacks.
On the day of the sale, my son arranged the items neatly on the tables. People arrived at precisely 8AM (No Early Birds, Please, his newspaper advertisement said). I sat in a lawn chair and watched as perfect strangers walked past the tables, picking up, examining, inspecting – then when they discovered an item they wanted to purchase, bargained with my son for an agreeable price. The clothing sold first, then the books, followed by a step stool painted yellow like a taxicab and a wooden rocking horse. I was relieved that we were able to empty out some of the clutter in the house and support a good cause.
And then – a young woman approached my son.
“Would you be willing to sell that entire basket of plastic animals for $10?”
My son glanced at me. He had clearly labeled the basket: .10-cents/small animal; .50 cents/large. We probably had over 200 animals, but then he shrugged and accepted her $10 bill.
Suddenly, my heart sank and I chocked back the urge to race after her and snatch the animals back. I closed my eyes, but all I could see was my son lining up the animals around the perimeter of the family room rug, my middle daughter lying on her bed in deep conversation with a flock of penguins, my youngest transporting a half dozen animals on the back of a Hess truck. It’d been a year at least since the basket had last been pulled out of the attic closet, but now as they were put in the back seat of some nameless woman, I felt a deep sense of sadness. Why did I agree to this garage sale? Why hadn’t I left all those books and clothes and toys safely packed away in the attic – safely within reach, where I could see them, touch them, remember.
By noon, most of the items were sold and gone, and with them, I said goodbye to a part of children’s childhood. Perhaps these items were simply boxes of worn books, and bins of old clothing, and baskets of plastic animals, but to me, they were from a time when my kids happily cuddled, willingly snuggled, and simply needed me. Part of me knew it was time to say goodbye, and yet it was still a bittersweet moment.
We raised over $200 that day – matched by my son from his Bar Mitzvah earnings. Somewhere in Africa, a group of young school children will be able to buy some needed sports equipment. Somewhere closer to home, some lucky children will be playing with a basket of plastic animals. I can only hope they create as many memories as my kids and I did – and that their parents hold on to that moment. It’s gone in a flash.
Written by Jenny Tananbaum, Suburban Mom