Saturday, August 02, 2008


Now that my mother-in-law has stuffed as much into her senior apartment as the place will hold and still leave a path to walk through it, the time had come to have the estate sale to get her former home ready for the market. That was where I spent the last couple of days from early morning to after the rush hour was over in the evening. It has certainly been interesting to watch the people who came through, and talk to some of them.

There was the little group camped out at the end of the driveway when we arrived at 8:15 for the advertised 9:00 a.m. opening. They followed us up the drive. Hubby promptly reminded them of the advertised time when the sale would begin. They were not happy, but reluctantly trudged back down the driveway.

There was a young thin tall black guy who stood with his toes touching the property line and his binoculars focused on the garage to see what we were doing. I felt like our privacy was being invaded, but of course the almighty dollar was in control. Mostly the little group were dealers looking for the collectible that would make them rich. One of them parked his behind on the bumper of my sister-in-law's car parked in the street. She was livid but didn't quite beat her brother down the drive to invite him to take it off.

There was the woman who added up her purchases as my husband was adding them up. They agreed on a total price. She bought and left. Half an hour later when the garage was crowded with shoppers she walked half way up the driveway and shouted at my husband that he had overcharged her by $5. He offered to return her money if she would return the purchases. No she didn't want to do that. What she wanted to do was embarrass him, so she continued to rant, telling him that he obviously needed the $5 more than she did, to which he responded that in that case would she give him $5 more? She trotted off in a huff.

There was the guy who argued with another shopper about who had the right to buy whatever it was they were arguing about. Once one of them conceded, the other one took his find to my husband and haggled with him over the price. When the man was finally gone after it had become very clear that the price was firm and he'd have to pay it, another shopper came up to my husband and said, "You can be glad it was him and not his wife. She's even worse."

There was the lady who arrived in a Lexus. Picture a tall blonde who looks like she might be six months pregnant. Picture her dressed in a skin-tight yellow blouse with a hole in it that stopped inches above her belly, and a flouncy skirt the top of which began several inches below the place where the blouse stopped and was barely long enough to cover the essentials . I guess she was attempting to look poor so she could get stuff cheap, however, she needs to reconsider the Lexus to make this act work.

There was the college kid shopping with his mother for things for his apartment. He bought the chairs to the kitchen set but didn't want the table cause it wouldn't fit into his kitchen. Then he spotted the picture of the Last Supper on the wall. He wanted that, and he bought it. He looked like a typical college boy, which had me wondering what he was planning to do with it.

There were the speakers of foreign languages who held conversations in front of us about God alone knew what. I'd be willing to bet this was the first time those walls had heard an oriental language or the German one either for that matter.

Then there was the Catholic lady. She could tell it was a Catholic house she was in because many of my M-I-L's religious pictures are still hanging on the walls. She looked to be about our age, and she had a little tale to tell about selling her mother's house. It seems this ex-priest and his wife and kids looked at it but told her he didn't have any money. She took pity on him and sold the house undervalue--apparently undervalue by quite a bit. Three months later the real estate agent called her. Had she seen what he had done with the house? He had added a large addition, an in-ground swimming pool, a boat and a camper in the driveway. I didn't ask her if she still went to church.

Mostly this estate sale was an exercise in futility. We sold stuff CHEAP, yet some people still haggled over price. When the difference between 50 cents and 25 cents is worth an argument I have to wonder what we have come to. When it was finally over and we added up the profits, they amounted to 7 or 8 hundred dollars which may seem like a lot until the time it took to make this sale happen was taken into account. For that money, my S-I-L and husband spent days in the house getting ready for it, and four of us spent two days holding it. They spent dollars that no one kept a record of on gasoline driving to and from the house several times--a drive which for us is an hour away. They spent about $60 on advertising. And they spent hours of emotional turmoil as they priced the stuff they grew up with which is still priceless in memory, such as their mother's potato salad dish that sold for 25 cents while they remembered the times it sat on the dinner table. There must be a better way to get rid of the material possessions collected over 90 years, but none of us could come up with one that would have met with the owner's approval.

As my S-I-L and I talked about it, we concluded that we are the first generation dealing with this excess of stuff in our parent's home, because they were the first generation with the ability to accumulate all of it who didn't raise enough kids to distribute it when the time came; and we wondered how we could save our own children from this last agony. Since this was the second round of property disposal for us this summer, it has been trying, indeed; and it has bred a lot of resentment that we all recognize is probably unfair to the oldsters who made this happen.

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