This past weekend was our neighborhood garage sale. I hate garage sales with a fervor. I am not a firm believer in one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. It’s a lot of work and quite honestly, it’s not very emotionally easy for me. I tend to be a hoarder of people, experiences and things. No, not like the show Hoarders but I do have a hard time letting go. I want to believe that everything has a purpose and I always feel like letting go of these things that I so closely relate to memories feels like letting go of different times in my life. My mind knows there is no real correlation but my heart, my heart is not so sure that those plastic bins don’t hold my memories in tact.
I’m perpetually afraid that if I cut the ties or give something away, the very next moment will be when I need that person or thing more than ever so I keep it all, tucked away safely in grey plastic bins just sitting there in my attic collecting dust. As I prepared for our garage sale, I promised myself that I would get rid of the things I no longer needed.I pulled all of the plastic bins down and started to sort the things I would sell from the things I would keep.
For a long time, I wouldn’t get rid of any of my baby things because I wasn’t sure that we were done having babies. In fact, last year when I found out I was pregnant, I felt a little vindication in my obsessive hoarding of all things baby. Then we lost the baby and all I wanted to do was chuck it all out of the window or leave it in our storage unit and set the whole damn thing on fire. Every single baby toy or tiny onesie became a reminder of what should have been and it hurt like a mother fucker.
We’ve since decided that there will be no more babies of our own, until there are grand babies and that shouldn’t be for at least 20 years. I just can’t got through another loss. I am not that strong. So, last week, I started sifting through all my children’s baby things and while there were many things that I could easily part with like plastic jungle gyms and corny two-piece Dora sets from when they were 12 months old, there were some things that I held in my hands and found myself inhaling the sweet aroma of Dreft circa 2007 and then I gently and silently lay it back into the plastic bin, daring anyone to ask me to do otherwise.
My mother-in-law was there with me, giving me the side-eye and silently wondering why the hell I didn’t just get rid of all of it. It is, after all, only things but it’s not just things to me. With each layered dress, with a crinoline slip or matching Christmas dress in two sizes for both girls or even the tiniest outfits that I brought each girl home in ( worn only once) all I could see were the memories and in that moment, I was taken back to the place in my heart that holds each cherished second of my daughters’ lives; learning to walk, the outfit they were wearing on the day they said their first word, the first day they went to church to be blessed, the night they had their first “sister slumber party” or their first birthday or the day they were baptized. Those clothes are so much more than just material held together by thread, they are our lives held together by love and it’s hard to sell that at a garage sale for $1, $2 or even $1,000,000.
Sure, a customer may see just a snowsuit, I see my daughter’s first time on a sled and I can still hear the gleeful laughter that echoed through our backyard as her daddy pulled her around the yard. They see a little romper and I see the first time she took her first magical step. A stranger sees a Christmas dress and I see the first time I took my daughters to the theater. You might see a worn pair of tiny ballet slippers and I remember how excited my 3-year-old was for her first day of dance. It’s all relative.
In the end,the memories are always mine. They don’t sit in the grey plastic bins in the attic smelling of Dreft. They are in my heart and they are with me every day for the rest of my life. I sold some of my daughters’ clothes, things that don’t mean as much to me as the others and some I kept to make a quilt for each of my girls to take with them when they have a home of their own.
I didn’t get too mad when people tried to buy my memories for less than I had marked. I smiled and said I hope your little girl enjoys it as much as mine did. Because I know that the clothes are just pieces of material held together by thread but the memories are priceless and no one can take those away from me. No matter what, the girls are always mine.
What is your most cherished keepsake of your child’s life? I bet it’s not kept in grey plastic bins.