"I love this! You're gonna sell it?" my daughter exclaimed.
I cringed as Holly admired the old yellow bud vase I'd hoped to unload in our garage sale last month. Deciding it will look great in her bedroom after the room is painted baby blue, she promptly peeled off the price-tag.
The vase wasn't the only thing reclaimed.
Noah's plastic light-saber - which hasn't seen the light of day since he put it down a few years ago - was also quietly retrieved from the sale pile, along with a large cookie jar emblazoned with the words "Store Bought Cookies."
"Mom, I just like coming downstairs and seeing it there," Noah explained. I remember the time the kids and I bought it at another garage sale because we appreciated its humor, but I stopped filling it because it collects dust, and the cork top - how clean can that thing really be? But one look at my son's face and I knew it had go back onto the kitchen counter.
I can relate to my children's reluctance to part with things. But sometimes, the realization comes too late.
"That is a nice lookin' purse," I realized after the sale began the next morning, as someone walked off with the cute black bag I bought at my neighbor's sale but later decided wasn't 'me.' I had a classic case of 'seller's remorse' and it wasn't the first time. At a sale fourteen years ago I accidentally sold my husband's favorite cowboy hat. (Honestly, I thought that other hat was his favorite, the one still sitting on the shelf in the closet.) Todd walked into the garage just in time to see his favorite hat walk out, perched on another guy's head. The other guy also bought the parrots, those cheesy carved parrots we'd bought in the market on our honeymoon in Jamaica. It's amazing how much more valuable things suddenly become when strangers appreciate them.
Years later, at another sale, I became teary as I stacked baby Holly's newborn onesies on a table beside an aging Crockpot. I couldn't believe she'd already outgrown them. Mr. Noah wasn't waxing poetic about the item he hoped to sell, though.
At the ripe old age of three he had a head for business and wasn't taking any chances.
He wanted to sell his plastic firetruck and decided it was worth a dollar. But after several customers came and went - one with Holly's old onesies - Noah decided his firetruck wasn't getting enough attention. So he nudged it with his foot directly into the paths of a few customers, hoping to force a sale. It worked like a charm (and nobody tripped!). Tears of laughter rolled down my cheeks as I made change for Noah's customer. That wouldn't be the last time he cleverly struck a deal.
The afternoon of our latest sale I had to pick Holly up from school, so I left Noah and our neighbor in charge. I returned to find him negotiating with a woman who'd inquired about a couple of ratty old wooden chairs he and I discovered beside a dumpster on one of our bike rides. They're good for nothing but displaying pots of geraniums. Noah wasn't sure if they were for sale, but "What would you pay for them?" he countered. I might have shrugged and asked four bucks for the pair, but she volunteered to pay five. Each. Sold.
Holly got into the spirit of pricing, herself. "I just wanna put stickers on things," she smiled, but some things weren't for sale. Like my husband's collection of psychology and philosophy books, so voluminous that the overflow lines the shelves in our garage.
"They for sale?" several customers asked, gesturing toward the books.
"Nah, my husband would divorce me if I sold them," I laughed, recalling his old hat.
"Tell him you were held up at gunpoint."
"By a book bandit," another customer chimed in." There's a thought. The book dealer who came by fared no better, but we had a nice chat. I got her card.
During a lull I re-hung Holly's brown velour jogging suit, recalling that before baby blue, brown was her favorite color. Then a neighbor and her two kids pedaled by, stopping to admire the toys on the table. The youngest, a boy with ginormous blonde curls, seemed taken with Noah's old Roboraptor. Santa probably paid well over $100 for it, but we couldn't find the darned remote so he was priced to sell. He still roared and moved his head, though.
"Mom, can I get it?" The boy asked.
"You don't have enough money," she replied. He bowed his head as he got back on his bike. I was sure my heart would break in half as they pedaled away.
"Noah, he lives down the street, right?" I whispered. "Go stick this on his porch so he finds it when he gets home, okay?" I quickly scribbled a note about how the Roboraptor, a gift from us, kept looking for his new boy after he left. Noah grinned and sprinted with it down the sidewalk.
Sure, I might have gotten ten bucks for it - but the expression on that boy's face, when later he ran into my yard and shouted a wide-eyed "Thanks!" before turning tail and running back to his house? Priceless.
Holly's brown jogging suit finally sold to a little girl whose mom also considered her tiny pink bathrobe, but passed. I breathed a sigh of relief, and then laughed at my reluctance to part with it. I still remember the day Holly picked it out, happy to find a robe the same color as mine, and I'll never forget that morning when the 'cable guy' made a service call at a neighbor's house. We were having cable issues of our own so I ran to the door and yoo-hooed, clad only in my pajamas and my pink robe. Holly promptly donned her new one and stood beside me as we waved the guy over.
Looks like I'll get to hang on to that memory a little while longer.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.