08 October 2018
Selling my mother at a barn auction
Since you "can't take it with you," everyone eventually has to decide what to do with memorabilia. Photos and letters from grandparents, aunts and uncles will logically go to the next generation of my cousins and nieces and nephews. But what to do with a baby photo of my late mother? My grandparents had the photo enlarged to almost-lifesize, then placed it in a large (and heavy) wooden frame of "tiger-stripe" pattern apparently popular after the turn of the century; the glass is top-of-the-line convex "bubble glass."
The framed photo hung on the wall in my grandparents' farmhouse for probably 40 years, then was stored in my parents' home for another 50 years, then to me for 10 years. Now it's at the end of the road. Others in my family are happy to get old photos of my mother as an adult, and especially of her as a senior citizen, but a picture of her as a baby triggers no memories and has no sentimental value, and most modern mobile young families don't want to be burdened with a heavy wood-and-glass photo frame.
So this past week I loaded mom in my car, along with a couple Coca-Cola mirrors I bought at a Bill Wade auction in Dallas in the 1970s, and my sister's sleepy-eyed "walking" bridal doll, and my paternal grandfather's medical encyclopedias from his corner drug store, plus boxes of my old collectibles and knick-knacks, and hauled them to a local auctioneer.
My whole adult life I've enjoyed barn auctions, sitting in the bleachers on a Sunday afternoon, or walking through a crowd in a farmyard rummaging through stuff on carts and wagons. There are amazing bargains to be found, and when you don't win you help the seller by boosting the price that winds up being paid by whoever outbid you.
When she was in her late 90s, my mother moved from Minnesota to our town here in Wisconsin, and she enjoyed going to barn auctions, where she would walk around looking at farm implements and old kitchen tools and pottery and dishware and say "I remember these" over and over again. I think she would be delighted to have her old picture frame going to a new family to start a new life.