Monday, October 6, 2014

I Used To Love Rummage Sales

It was a gigantic fund-raising Rummage Sale like so many others I'd been to...

But it wasn't.  

It was 7 very large rooms of a community center and all the hallways jammed pack with other people's donated "stuff" for sale.

But it wasn't.

It was all meteciously organized and sorted by category so you could easily search out exactly what you were looking for.

But it wasn't.

It was every second-hand shopper's dream sale.

But it wasn't.  Not at all.

Back home recently for a fast weekend of visiting family before the snow flies in Northeast Ohio, my sisters and I stopped by the much anticipated Community Rummage Sale we'd been attending annually for at least 20 years.  This is the mother of all Rummage Sales with more treasures and surprise purchases than any other.  Furniture, kitchenware, linens, pictures, crafts, glassware, you name it...  Truly-- everything you could think of and then some.  We love this sale.

But not this year.

The Rummage Sale is the brainchild of the residents at the senior living community my mom lived in before she passed away nearly 11 months ago.  The "merchandise" is mostly donated by residents when they are downsizing to move into new houses or apartments on the senior campus.

It's generally all the stuff that new residents either can't fit into their new home, stuff their family members don't want or need, or items they simply no longer desire.  It's all donated for a good cause and everyone feels really good about passing their belongings on because the funds raised go to help seniors in need.

But it's not.

And by "not" I mean it's not just stuff donated when new residents are downsizing to move into the senior living community.  It's also all the stuff donated by families when their loved ones pass away.  A realization that we, when attending the Rummage Sale all these years, choose not to think about.

As I said, this was a much anticipated event for my sisters and I so, without hesitation, we piled into Baby Sister's giant SUV and headed to the sale hoping to find small crystal bowls, mason jars and votive candle holders to be used at my niece's wedding this coming Spring.

When we walked into the front door we were immediately greeted by my mother's former next door neighbor.  She really misses mom and we had a lovely conversation together albeit with a lump in our throats.

Then, even though we'd braced ourselves for the possibility of running into more of Mom's other friends, we stepped into the first room to shop-- kitchenware.

But we shouldn't have.

On a table, four steps inside the door, were my mother's kitchen placemats for sale-- The ones I'd made her a million years ago and she insisted were "just fine" for her new home even though they didn't match anything but she used them everyday because I'd made them for her. 

I could literally hear my sisters' intake of breath simultaneously followed by zippered purses opening to reach for Kleenex.  Seeing our mother's donated things for sale never crossed out minds.

And there we stood silently, tears rolling down our faces-- all of us touching the placemats that I now held in my arms like a child holding a favorite teddy bear.  No words, just tears and the realization that our last moments of denial about mom's passing, and thinking the past 11 months had all been a bad dream that we would magically wake-up from, faded with our tears on the fabric of the mates.

Apparently we stood frozen at the "placemat table" for a long time because a nearly 85 year old resident volunteer wearing a name tag and apron gently nudged us along because we were holding up other shoppers.

As we snaked our way through the many tables of sale items, we spotted more of the "stuff" we'd donated when our mother passed away-- Her dish towels, the ones with the crocheted tops that she hung off her kitchen stove handle.  Then came the China tea pot without a lid that Mom always put the dandelions we'd pick for her as kids.

In the "Holiday Room" we immediately spotted the Halloween candle holders with the tiny mice glued on them and the wooden, brightly painted Easter flowers mom pulled out for display every year.

The next room was filled with tables loaded with glassware... and mom's juice glasses, butter dishes, and tea cups as well as several small crystal bowls, mason jars and votive candles.

We stopped by the "Elegant Elephants" room-- Which loosely translated means "the expensive but hideously ugly donated stuff they didn't know where else to put" and there we spotted Mom's over-sized glass angel dressed in a wonky pink and blue glittered gown and appearing to fly like Peter Pan.  I'm pretty sure mom would have called the angel an "Elephant" too but never revealed which family member gave it to her and always had it displayed in her living room.

From room to room we went, seeing residents who asked us if we were our mother's daughters because we look so much like her.  Staff members hugged us and told us with tears in their eyes how much they missed our Mom's positive attitude and sense of humor.

And we continued to "shop" room by room.

But we didn't.

"Shop" that is.  We were really just looking for our mother's things.

In the end, we bought all of our mother's "stuff" that we could find at the Rummage Sale... the stuff we brokenheartedly donated because we all had already brought so much of our mother's cherished possessions to our own home when she passed.

Mom's things at the Rummage Sale were just too hard to see left behind.  Silly, I know, but my sisters and I came home with a carload of our mother's possessions... that we paid for... because we couldn't bear to leave them, or her, behind at the Rummage Sale.

Welcome to  -  Joanna Jenkins
Photo Credit: © Kellis -