The Things We Keep

imageSaturday 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?

imageOne 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.

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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23 Responses to The Things We Keep

  1. I’m a huge secondhand/vintage store shopper and always wonder about the items I run across and their previous owners. Not to be maudlin, but it saddens me to see something particularly beautiful (or well preserved) being resold: it seems a disservice to sever the memories from such pieces!

    • Coming East says:

      Even though we didn’t have much to sell, SHBG, there was one thing that sold that I did have a small regret over, though I haven’t used it in years. So I know what you mean, but maybe someone else will now treasure it.

  2. Margie says:

    What wonderful memories!
    Our cabin community has a garage sale each spring, and we almost always dispose of just about everything we put out in front of our place. I give everything away – I’m more interested in finding homes for things than making any money because most of what I am putting out is stuff the previous owner of the cabin left behind!

    • Coming East says:

      What a great idea, Margie. Since we aren’t pack rats, this one garage sale will probably be it for us for another twenty years. We don’t have anything else to sell. We didn’t make much money, but it was good to gift ride of some of the stuff and claim the space.

  3. love this! The memories that come from ‘things’ is incredible. Have been down several memory lanes the past few weeks. This was a wonderful piece, filled with your life. Thank you for sharing it with us. I have missed reading your posts. Hope all is well. DAF

    • Coming East says:

      Thanks, DAF. I haven’t been writing as much lately. Don’t know why. Not motivated, I guess, and nothing comes to mind to write about. I at least need to be reading blogs. No excuse. I’m in the doldrums and need a stiff breeze to pull me out.

      • and here I attributed my lack of writing and reading to my move. You have tons of ideas, I know, they are laying dormant until you have the energy to write. I totally understand and will wait very patiently til this block moves. Get some rest and enjoy the beautiful VA late spring…. or is it considered summer already? No matter, this lack of motivation will pass and we in the blogosphere will await your next post…. Meanwhile, I am drawing blanks for today as to what to write. đŸ˜‰

      • Coming East says:

        Thanks, DAF, for the encouragement.

  4. dorannrule says:

    I do know how difficult it is to part with the strangest things – the things that carry so many memories. You were very brave to get as far as the ashtray. My Dad was a smoker too and I am holding onto an Italian blown glass, cobalt blue ashtray. Are we alike or what?

  5. pattisj says:

    I saw the little flower, didn’t know it was a bird on it, or that it was an ashtray. It’s too pretty for that!

  6. Too bad I can’t haul some stuff down to your house for your garage sale because I have a boatload!! I just told my husband the other day we have been in one place too long. We moved often and I purged every time the moving van had to show up. But we’ve been in one spot for 13 years now and have managed to somehow accumulate way too much stuff (granted, some of it is our kids’ which they say they will claim someday– not holding my breath!). Your post just made me more determined to start sweeping out some unnecessary clutter.

    • Coming East says:

      Glad I could help, Mama, lol. I am sitting in our garage right now on a cold, dreary rainy Saturday. A horrible day for a garage sale. I’ve made a whopping $11 dollars so far. You know the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”? Well, apparently, my trash is really trash. Haha.

  7. Al says:

    I’ll give you $500 for the ashtray. (everyone has their price)

  8. What a great trip down memory lane. You also just described the reason I have problems getting rid of things. I hold each piece to examine the image, the texture and the smell, which brings back the memories and the stories. Then it usually winds up cluttering up my closet or my basement again, just newly dusted!

    • Coming East says:

      You sound like me, Carol! We haven’t had a basement since we left Connecticut in 1978, so we don’t have storage to keep things we don’t use. I figure I’m deck uttering so the kids won’t have to when they put us in The Home.

  9. Dianna says:

    Oh, yes. You definitely have to hold on to some things. I, on the other hand, am a TRUE pack rat, so I hold on to EVERYTHING!
    (I think you should keep those melamine trays, myself….)

    • Coming East says:

      You probably have a much bigger place, Dianna. If I think my kids might possible want something I’m thinking of giving away, then I keep it. But things that hold memories for me don’t necessarily do the same for them. I don’t know if they are as sentimental as I am.

  10. Lovely post. Yes, it’s hard to declutter– I’m trying to do this at my parent’s house now– so what do I do? Bring it to mine! Good luck with the yard sale -Just don’t buy too much from everyone else!

    • Coming East says:

      Yes, I need to keep that in mind, Grandma. My strategy is to send George around to the other town houses to see if there is anything he thinks we would want. Mid he doesn’t find anything, I’m not going to look because I’m sure I wouldn’t be as selective as George.

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