Saturday our little neighborhood is having a garage sale. Since neither George nor I are packrats, I haven’t found too many things to offer at the end of my driveway. An old crockpot, a roaster oven, a camping stool, melamine TV trays and a few other odds and ends are all I’ve collected. Most of the things I’ve rounded up I will be glad to get rid of because we can always use the space in our little townhouse. But other things, though I will let them go, tug at my heart strings because of the memories attached to them.
The TV trays were a fond memory of my childhood. We used them every time we ate outside on our picnic table. They kept the baked beans from running into our hotdogs and the pickle juice out of our potato salad. We also used them in front of the TV when there was a family program we could watch together, like the Milton Berle Show. They remind me of the family I was born into, and giving them away makes me feel as if I’m giving away a memory. But they are melamine. They can’t go into the dishwasher and they aren’t microwaveable. I don’t use them anymore, and they are just taking up room. I need to sell them before I change my mind.
We used the roasting oven every Christmas in San Antonio. Because our Christmas gatherings had grown to nearly twenty-five people over the years, we turned them into fiestas and made fajitas on the grill, and King Ranch chicken. As George took the fajitas off the grill, he would put them in the roaster to keep warm while he threw the next slab of skirt steak on the fire. I miss those Christmases, and so do my children and all the people who used to attend that celebration. But again, we will never have gatherings like that again, and we have no need for that roaster anymore.
When George saw me putting the camp stool in the pile of items for the sale, he said, “Oh, I remember that stool. What did we use it for?” Before I could say anything, he answered his own question. “I remember now. We brought it to soccer games so you could sit down while Matt played and I coached.” Our son Matt was only seven then, but he was a fierce soccer player, and he loved having his dad as one of his coaches. I remembered that well, but I also remembered another use I found for that stool, long after Matt had grown up and no longer played soccer. “I used to take it to Fort Sam on my way home from teaching,” I said, referring to the National Cemetery, ” and sit by Dad’s grave and talk to him.”
I bought little colored dot stickers so I could put prices on all the items. Some things are easy to price. Fifty cents for a cake pan with a small dent in it, twenty-five cents apiece for VHS tapes (we don’t have a VHS player anymore), five dollars for a silver-plated chip and dip dish (yes, it was a wedding present forty-one years ago, but I hate to polish). But what price do you put on memories?
One thing I did come across that I cannot part with, no matter how absurd it seems to keep, is an ashtray. No, we don’t smoke and I would chase anyone out of the house with a broom if he or she tried to light up in our home. But this ashtray reminds me of my parents back in the fifties. My father smoked a pipe and he smoked cigarettes, as that was quite the fashion during that time period, before most of us smartened up. I remember the cocktail parties my parents would hold, our living room filled with engineers from Sikorsky Aircraft and their wives. Sometimes Mr. Sikorsky himself was there. Big band music would be playing softly in the background, the men would be engaged in lively discussions, their wives, in black cocktail dresses and pearls, in small groups of their own, and my mother, in her fancy starched apron would announce that dinner, her famous lobster newberg, was served. Cigarettes would be extinguished and pipes tamped down, and they would all move to the dining room. That little ashtray holds that memory and more because it was always on the coffee table, ready to hold a cigarette between the little bird’s tail. Some things you just have to keep.