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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, October 27, 2002

In garage sale of life, some stuff is priceless

By Michael C. DeMattos

We had spent the last month planning the garage sale and my wife had put in some long hours organizing our belongings for sale. She had sorted our daughter's clothes by size and toys by age. There were miscellaneous household goods for sale, but the prize pieces were the toddler bed, bassinet, stroller, bouncy thingy and a jogger.

To be truthful, turning our stuff to cash is foreign to us. Normally, we would either donate the items to our favorite charity and be done with it or hand them down to a friend. But it was different this time. Many of the objects for sale were things we had been holding onto for years. This was especially true for the baby articles. They were kept "just in case" we had a second child. The years rolled by and the second child never arrived, and after some lengthy discussions over the summer, we decided to do some housecleaning.

To my surprise, my daughter really got into it. She gathered all the stuffed animals that she no longer played with and readied them for sale. She was sure that a little kid would love them and give them a new home.

I suppose we each had our own little fantasies about how the garage sale would go. I imagined a mother-to-be spying a Diaper Genie and snatching it up, knowing that for $5 she had herself a deal.

The pregnant woman never materialized, and despite the numerous hours dedicated to collecting and cleaning the remnants of our past, the garage sale was a failure. Or was it?

It was fascinating to watch my daughter sift through her belongings. This was a lengthy process that involved testing old toys "just to make sure they still work." With a wink and a nod I observed as she played with some toys for the last time. With a confidence and comfort that comes from knowing you have officially outgrown something, she placed the toys in the box for sale. Interestingly, she kept some toys for her younger cousins and friends for when they come over to visit. How very sensitive.

For my wife, the garage sale represented a transition point. It demarcated the end of one dream and the beginning of another. There was sadness but also excitement. I sense that she let go of what might have been, but was already looking forward to what will be. It is hard to explain except to say that there was a palpable sigh.

Me? I guess I wanted the garage sale because it validated a simple truth. The items for sale were not particularly costly, but they were valuable to me. They were containers of hopes and dreams; some realized and others lost. They were symbols of a life fully lived and had some luster to them still. I thought they would be valuable to others.

By day's end, the majority of stuff had gone unsold, but that did not matter. Perhaps a price tag was presumptuous. I balanced the books in my head and would not gauge value based on sales. I had made my fortune long ago.

Michael C. DeMattos has a master's degree in social work. He is a family therapist, educator, trainer, storyteller and angler, and lives in Kane'ohe with his wife and 5-year-old daughter. Reach him at: Family Matters, Island Life, The Advertiser, P.O. Box 3110, Honolulu, HI 96802; fax 525-8055; or e-mail ohana@honoluluadvertiser.com.