Friday, March 2, 2012

My soon to be 95 years old mother-in-law called last week to ask if I could help her put on a garage sale. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona and this would entail a 7 hour drive, plus bringing everything to set up a garage sale, as she has never had one in her life. As my husband and I loaded up saw horses and pieces of plywood to use as tables we discussed the reasons for this unusual request. In January, his mother had been diagnosed with lung cancer and from everything we had been told, she probably had anywhere from 3-6 months to live. She says that she has never felt better in years and does seem to be doing really well considering the diagnosis. She has outlived her husband and a brother and most of her friends. She considers that she has had a pretty good run and has told us all that she is ready for whatever happens. With that in mind, she decided that getting rid of some of the "stuff" she had would make it easier on all of us that would be left.
     The day after we arrived, we endeavored to get her to tell us what she wanted in the sale. After much procrastinating, she decided that we would start in her china painting room and cull out all the books that could be sold. Lordy, I have never seen so many cookbooks, mostly vintage, in one place! Now this is a woman whom most family members would agree, with the exception of one or two items, was decidedly not a good cook. But, I guess hope springs eternal and she was trying to be better by just reading Betty Crocker. Every book she placed in the pile came with an anecdote or a memory of someone that had to be told. We were getting nowhere fast and still did not have much to put in a sale.  My husband came in to hurry the pace and basically just increased her audience by one more body.
    Sale day arrived and we set the make-shift table up and placed what items we had managed to gather and price on display. Now, the wait. The first cars arrived and customers started to poke around the "stuff" that she had accumulated over a long life. We were amazed how well these old cookbooks sold. My mother-in-law was impressed enough to go in and bring out some clothing. As I worked the concrete sales floor and took  nickels and dimes, quarters and dollars, she sat in the sunshine and talked to the strangers and neighbors that had stopped by to see what treasures that they couldn't live without.
     She didn't make much money and we didn't get rid of much "stuff" as she just couldn't seem to part with much. But, I think she had a good time and I re-learned something that I had forgotten. We all have stories and we all yearn to share them. It validates us and we feel that we have accomplished something in the passing along of our tales. So, when someone shares a story with you, smile, nod, touch their hand and know that you have lifted a life and made someone feel precious and above all, heard.

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