The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Make Me An Offer


I am sitting in my parked car while participating in a neighborhood wide garage sale. It is a beautiful spring day and I have enjoyed reading a great book in between my few sales. My kids have been surprisingly self-sufficient: making periodic pilgrimages to the other sales and basically leaving me alone.

Their most recent score is a giant rubber hand that looks like it was chewed off and buried for six months. “Only two dollars!” Paul announces. He confides his plan of placing it on Eric’s chest while he sleeps.

It has not been the busiest garage sale but I can’t say I mind since it was a last-minute arrangement. Yesterday, a neighbor approached me at a weak moment after I had just consumed a rather large espresso drink and as optimistic as I would be all day exclaimed, “Yes! Of course! Count me in!”

Garage sales always sound like a good idea at first.

I realize it was eight years ago when Paul was barely sitting up that we held our last group of sales on the block. I see the same boxes of merchandise still in the front of my garage. I routinely examine them when I make my monthly donation runs and at each survey I conclude that most of this stuff is too good to just give away and so it stays.

Maybe this is the year it goes?

As I looked closer I noticed the different boxes. The pending hand-me downs next to the carton of items in need of repair. Of course there is also the cache of clothes I cannot part with for sentimental reasons. I save them in hope of passing them down to somebody else who can appreciate them. I stare at an unworn sweatshirt with the attached tag stating its value at twenty-five dollars (marked down from fifty dollars!). I bought it eight years ago before it even fit Paul. It never suited him but I held onto it and I packed it away so well that by the time I found it again for Eric he was too big for it! Maybe when my sister has a baby?

I come across one of my “single girl” boxes containing remnants of my previous life. This one has some great costume jewelry and even though they are not gold and gemstones they are still without a doubt more “valuable” than the other items laid out on the blanket in my driveway.

In my former life, I managed the costume jewelry department of Macy’s Herald Square in New York City. I acquired some incredible pieces during my time there and over the years I compulsively supplemented my extensive collection. I always stored my jewelry in antique jewelry boxes and displayed them in one apartment after another throughout my single years. I have moved these boxes within boxes more times than I can recall and the last move was nine years ago when we acquired this house. By the time this box landed with a thud on a shelf in our basement it had already been years since I had graduated from costume to fine jewelry. Now my favorite every day pieces are eighteen karat and platinum, and I keep everything in one jewelry box that stays in our safe.

This box I just came across is filled with earrings. Each pair escorting me back to another time and place. I am twenty-five and my hair is short and red. I can see myself in the bar mirror swinging my head when I laugh and my long earrings tap against my neck. I touch each pair and admire them. The colors that went so well with my red hair would clash both with my long blond locks and my “grown up” lifestyle. I would never wear this jewelry now but I also can’t seem to let it go.

What is my youth worth?

I could not bear to calculate all the money I had actually spent. The last sale I tried to get $10 a pair. I did not sell a single one because I would not come down in price. How could these people not see the value here? Unlike just about everything else I could do without, these things were truly worth something to me. I could no more replace those earrings than I could the years I wore them. I packed them away again unwilling to waver.

This year I lay them out in pairs with a small sign: “make me an offer.”

In the early afternoon, as I finished reading another chapter in my book, a young mom looked past my assortment of placemats and admired my fabulous earring collection. She commented on how well behaved my boys were as Eric tried to sell her two-year old some of his own outgrown baby toys. Maybe she was buttering me up, but it worked. But really it was hearing "you have great taste” that got me.


She chose some of my favorites and as I wrapped them up for her I told her about the different artists and explained how some of them were engineered. I was letting go of more than clutter: it was letting a part of me depart. I am never going to be the woman who wears that jewelry again.

I could finally let go of the idea that someone had to pay a certain amount in order to justify why I had held on this collection for so long. The money I got from the earrings she bought would barely cover a week’s worth of mochas. But the way she held each one up for her husband to admire made it all worth it. I am glad that somebody else will get to appreciate them. That is worth more to me than money.

By Cathy Burke


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Loved the line, "What is my youth worth?"
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