"ESTATE SALE - Offpiste Humor"
  Plaster hippos




Humor Column by Noma d’Plume

When my 95-year-old father-in-law passed away last year, my husband swore he’d never do an estate sale to dispose of FIL’s furniture, collectibles, dishes, etc. He’d done estate sales for a few years after he retired and although he was great at organizing, staging and pricing a sale, he knew how much work they could be.

My husband’s youngest sister agreed. Far too much work and way too much time, considering that it’s a 2.5-hour drive for all of us to get to FIL’s house on the Oregon coast.

So, guess what we did this past weekend. An estate sale, of course. My husband’s other sister insisted and wore her siblings down with a piquant mixture of guilt (“I’ll just do the sale by myself … all alone … with no one to help.”) and emotional extortion (“Dad was a businessman. He’d be horrified that we just gave all his stuff to Goodwill instead of trying to sell it.”).

My husband and I spent two weekends at the beach house cleaning, clearing out closets, organizing and researching prices for items. The week before the sale, we hunkered down for five straight days of setting up. Whenever we had a break, I was madly posting information to estate sale websites.

Prepping for the sale revealed my FIL’s love affair with duct tape. He wasn’t a man handy with tools, so duct tape was his go-to fix for everything. Furnace vent not closing properly? Duct tape it shut. Clock fell off the wall and broke? Duct tape it back together. Did a piece come off one of his many vintage ship models? Stick it back on with duct tape. Bed frame missing a screw? Patch it together with …. (well, you know the drill by now). Most of our prep time was devoted to peeling off duct tape, carefully removing the sticky tape residue, and fixing items properly so that they could be sold.

FIL was a collector of all sorts of “treasures”: maritime and nautical paintings, which he scoured other estate sales for; tall ship models, one of which was in a 6-foot-tall glass exhibit case; hippopotamus statues and figurines (related to his previously owning a hippo-themed restaurant); and an entire fleet of whiskey decanter vintage cars.

The first day of the sale dawned with driving rain and high winds. But estate sale folk are a hearty lot. We had worried that the weather would deter people, but the minute the sale opened customers streamed through the front door. The hippos, which I was sure would never sell, were gone in minutes. My FIL’s cherry-red leather easy chair was snapped up too, despite its scuffs and dodgy springs. One customer emptied a bookshelf in the back room of 50 Louis L’Amour novels and bought the entire set at full price.

Throughout the day, whenever there was a break in the rain, we helped customers carry out dressers, end tables, beds and chairs. By the end of the day, we were exhausted but happy that about two-thirds of our “merchandise” was gone.

Our second day was half-price day: Anything that hadn’t sold on Saturday was now half off. We saw a flurry of repeat customers hoping that something they’d spied would now be deeply discounted. The whiskey decanter cars, which no one had even made an offer on the day before, were now highly coveted. Two customers nearly came to fisticuffs over them with my sister-in-law desperately trying to keep peace. In the end, the unruly buyers grudgingly divided the lot of cars and bought them all.

With nearly everything sold, Monday was our “let’s wrap this baby up” day. There was a trip to the bank to deposit proceeds from the sale. Two visits to the dump with trash and recycling. A swing by Goodwill to drop off a massive credenza that several people had wanted but simply couldn’t transport. Then it was time to pack up our car with all the banquet tables, folding chairs, signage, etc. that we’d brought for the sale. I didn’t think everything would fit, but hubby is a master packer with an engineer’s brain. Like a carefully crafted puzzle, he strategically added each piece and threw his arms up in triumph when the automatic tailgate on his GMC Acadia closed over the load and latched.

On the long drive home, we stopped for a celebratory ice cream. While savoring his cup of soft-serve vanilla with Reese’s peanut butter cup crumbles, hubby swore to me that he’d never do another estate sale again. Right, I’ve heard that before.

About the author:

A woman of a certain age, Noma d’Plume lives in a beautiful, rainy, semi-rural corner of the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys baking/making things that start with the letter “P” (pecan pie, pumpkin-chocolate-chip bread, peanut brittle, pound cake), gardening, bowling ambidextrously, traveling to supposedly haunted places, and browsing second-hand bookshops.