Once again it is time to separate our lives into the can’t afford to keep, don’t absolutely need, and can’t yet bear to part with. We’ve been here before. Last summer we clenched our teeth, stripped hangars, pillaged shelves, pulled power cords for the last time, and relegated half our belongings to the yard sale tables. We hoped then to get by, just get by, until my fall adjunct contracts at several colleges kicked in, the new academic postings began, and we could eat three meals a day again. We were determined to do it. We’d collectively decided to return to academe. To make a difference.
Yet here we are once more between the scrape and you might make it spring contracts and the one car repair and you’re bankrupt summer gigs. We are older – so much older – and regrettably wise enough to realize that whatever we sacrifice on the tables this year will bring us no salvation, no relief, just another month in our crushingly close four-room, three-tenant 500 square foot apartment. That assumes, of course, the sale goes well.
What little we had of interest to the locals was yard saled or Craig listed last year. We kept what mattered – the badges of our lives as artists, writers, parents – and the gear that comes with being a family of tornado spotters, volunteer emergency responders, and, in the case of my not yet 16 year old son, a top of his class EMT. Unwilling to believe the family of a college teacher would have to live out of knapsacks and sleep on the floor, we held on to the basics: bookcases, table, beds.
Today our go-bags fill the space where once the bookcases stood. Boxes of books, clothing, lamps, desk supplies, and kitchenware are stacked on the furniture also awaiting this year’s ritual. It is not the size of the pile that troubles us. It is not parting with icons we thought we could keep that hurts. It is the insignificance of the loss.
Bad enough to have to sell a collected Keats or a Tirion Star Atlas for a dollar; worse to offer it to someone for free in hopes they’ll feel obliged to purchase something else. But far worse is knowing that of the monument to our past we have erected in our living space, what of it we can sell will barely net us a week of groceries. It is one thing to sell belongings so you can replace them with something better. It is quite another to offer up what no one will pay for unless it comes dirt cheap. With the black humor of a seasoned first responder, my son has christened this weekend’s yard sale our family-wide, one-day adjunct faculty contract.
This is the kid who won’t get any real birthday presents this summer. The kid who told us he’s fine with just getting glucose tabs for his medical pack in case his diabetic friends get in trouble at a football game. I’m sure you find the idealism passé. But remember him and his kind should you ever call 911 for a medical emergency. To everyone else, your gurney is just a yard sale waiting to happen.