Greeson: An estate sale can never put a price on memories

Greeson: An estate sale can never put a price on memories

March 5th, 2019 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns
Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Friday morning I pulled into the driveway of the house where my parents used to live. The street was filled with cars and dozens of people waited in the driveway.

The sign read simply "Estate Sale" and, to be truthful, the thought of selling the things I remember made me feel like I was selling the pieces and parts of my life.

But it's been almost seven months since Pop died, so after weeks of preparation and planning, it was time.

I never thought of my dad as Thurston Howell III or mom as Zsa Zsa Gabor, so the whole idea of an "estate" sale seemed over the top in most ways.

Sure, they had a house full of things, because they made certain to create a home that made everyone feel welcome. Not sure if that means "estate," and I have no idea how that translates into a sale, but I will forever value the memories of the things my parents held dear and the environment in which I was raised.

Before we go any further, many thanks to Dale and his Estate Troopers (clever name, right?) for their care, effort and work. Way more goes into an estate sale than I ever realized.

Let's start there. The preparation and level of detail required to put on an estate sale are staggering. These are not "inside" yard sales. The folks who put those things together clock way more hours than anyone knows.

An estate sale is a sale of everything. It means removing pictures from frames, baseball cards from boxes and salt and pepper from the shakers. The couches from my childhood, the toys from my children's childhood, you name it, it had a price tag.

When everything must go, everything must go.

Everything, that is, but the memories.

It was strange, walking through the hollowed-out house Sunday afternoon, when little was left and less still was recognizable. What struck me most was that everything was gone, but nothing had changed.

The stuff is gone, but in the end it's just stuff.

The memories of the stuff do not vanish when the stuff is gone. As Dale told me last week, there will be a new collection of people who will love the things we loved and remember their special times built with those special things.

The greatness of any estate is not the estate, but the memories created around it. Like silver or brass or crystal candlesticks. The table centerpiece of your childhood Thanksgiving is not what made the laughs memorable or the prayers meaningful and the company more loved. Or the McDonald's Happy Meal plates that I can remember eating off as a child. The dozens of picture frames that held the smiling versions of my family at a ball park or a beach or after Easter Sunday. The furniture that made us comfortable, the tools we used to stoke fires in the fireplace that warmed the den, the toys that were passed from generation to generation.

All of those things are gone, like my parents, but the memories, also like my parents, will never be forgotten.

It's the smiles and the memories rather than the stuff and the money that matter most.

That said, this means that I can never watch "Antiques Roadshow" again. Because if I see a 12th century mirror from the Astingazstanbul (or whatever it may be) Dynasty sell for $250,000, I might have cold sweats and wonder, "Was that in Mom's bathroom?"

Contact Jay Greeson at

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