I said I would not be there when the sale started. It was bad enough having my home invaded by the appraiser and his associates, hemming and hawing as they passed through my precious things. I kept telling myself that these were only material possessions, and life would be far better without them, but it’s hard to say “good bye” to all those treasures. I wouldn’t agonize anymore about the blue rice china bowl that “not I” broke, or the cloisonné vases that rocked a little on the high shelf when the door slammed. My antique, Korean chests were no longer an investment; their price was fixed. My boys parted willingly with everything; their eyes focused on the prize, the grand adventure for which we were selling every material possession we owned. The weather was exceptional. Not a cloud in sight. We were barely out of bed when the curious, the bored, the bargain hunters, the estate sale, and the flea market specialists arrived. I was sick to my stomach. A friend called and offered me her condolences. It was a family affair, this farewell to material possessions. We spent an agonizing week separating the “must keeps” from the “sellers” and then shuffling them back and forth. It was billed as a “Moving Sale.” To me, it felt like a fire sale. I decided to hose off the sunfish sailboat so it would show better, and the nozzle sold for 25 cents. I caught a glimpse of my son’s brand new down parka leaving the clothing table; the sign said “25 cents.” Where was the logic in that? I asked the boys to carefully select at least one good winter jacket to keep. I never dreamed the down parka would hit the rummage table. Valued antique dishes were $1.00on the knick-knack rack. And for this, we hired a renowned appraiser? The Hedron couches went for a song, but there was some satisfaction in seeing them toted off by friends. I said I was not going to be there for the carnage. The wanted items were in the bedroom; and the signs on doors and closets said, “Not for Sale.” The illiteracy rate was surely as high as reported. The bedroom door keeps opening; and people literally crawled over things to grab what they saw with me standing there, agape, crying, “This room has nothing for sale.” They unwillingly dropped their perceived treasures. I began to believe they might tear down the walls and sell them off one by one until nothing but the bare ground was left. They might follow with the sod cutters and sell that off, too; then dismantle the sprinkler system. My head was splitting open with pain. A colleague of mine walked into my office when he heard what we were going to do and counseled me, “You know, your possessions represent your personal history, a reflection of who you are and your values. To sell it all is going to create an assault on yourself akin to a robbery or a rape, and you’d better be prepared for counseling.” That night I scoured through the house set up for sale and picked out a piece of jade fruit, a Korean toy, a small basket, and a few other worthless mementos and hid them away in the bedroom, no longer a sanctuary in the insanity. The loss of my collection of international musical instruments from my former travels already ate at my musical soul. After three days. I was numb. The tension was like banjo strings. I rescued a few more worthless pieces and packed them in boxes to store. I kept the china and crystal, not willing to part with it for a song. Some day, I could sit in the middle of an empty apartment amid enough dishes to feed fifty people a feast. I wanted to believe there was joy in saying good bye to material possessions. It was agony. I took some surcease in the knowledge that parts of my past were cumbersome to hang onto. Letting go of the things might provide some type of release from pain and longing. Not really. Memories are locked up inside of me, and it does not take tangible things to bring them forth. Everything I read seemed to indicate that the grieving for things would pass. Eventually, a simplified life would be so valuable to me that I could release those three painful days and the mopping up week that followed. Maybe a few ghosts of days past would disappear also. I resigned from my job, too; one more good bye. It was risky at my age to leave a rising career. The opportunities would never again be the same. That, too, was an identity, shattered. The planned blue water sailing adventure would have to make up for it all. Some things seemed providential to the move: a speeding van ran a stop sign and totaled the car; thus, that was sold to the insurance company. The house sold over midnight oil with the car parked in the driveway, the small U-Haul attached. We divested ourselves of our worldly possessions in thirty short days, ending with a sleepless night before departure. What was left fit in a 5’ X 8' U-Haul hitched to the back of a “crock”. The “crock” was a $200 transportation car I purchased just to ride to work after the Buick Riviera was totaled. I never dreamed we would drive the crock to Florida, 3000 miles. We piled the unsold waterbed on top and headed down the highway toward the oldest son’s college where he could make good use of the bed. We were a sight, indeed. The “crock,” a 71 Ford LTD wagon, had seen several wrecks and sat idle by an irrigation ditch of hard water for two years. The doors were nearly impossible to open; and the hood blew off, requiring a three-part process to shut. The bed was on top and the U-Haul behind. We looked like a scene from The Grapes of Wrath. My work colleague was correct. My collection of stuff resulted from years of traveling abroad, each item a memory of a little shop or a dear friend now only in my mind. I hoped that a new life, free of the trappings of the past, in the spirit of the sea, would purge the pain and leave the joy. The Durby Brothers, antique sellers, said, “Go to a hotel until the sale is over.”Instead, we punished ourselves by staying at home. The memory haunts me still. I can hear the woman admiring my Chinese watercolor duck paintings in the kitchen that I painted in Korea, the days of classical piano lessons and Chinese Brush Painting, the days of elegance and decorum – and then I hear her friend answer, “yes, you can throw out the pictures, and the frames will be perfect.” I wanted to run out and rescue my ducks, even though Great Grandpa said they were diving at the wrong angle. Driving the old surfer Woody down the highway remains etched in my mind. We said good bye to our things, our jobs, our school, our friends and everything familiar in exchange for a sailboat and an ocean highway. Life was never the same again, and neither were we.
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