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Moments In Time: Sifting through the stuff of life

“This goes — that we keep,’’ became Betty Flora’s mantra when sorting a houseful of belongings for auction.

Courtesy of Betty Flora

“This goes — that we keep,’’ became Betty Flora’s mantra when sorting a houseful of belongings for auction.

Editor's note: This week, the Times continues its new, occasional series called Moments in Time. We're publishing stories from our senior readers that capture treasured memories from a specific part of their lives. These stories typically will have a beginning and an end, deal with vibrant images and include period-piece references. Please submit your entries to

Today's submission comes from Betty Flora of Sun City Center.

The house was sold.

I was surrounded by an accumulation of possessions that brought back memories of bygone days.

The possessions were of no great value, but they conjured up events and people who were, or had been, very precious to us. Decisions had to be made as to the significance of each and every item in the house.

"Impossible!" I declared.

Carefully chosen wedding gifts generously given by remote relatives, near relatives, acquaintances, and friends were everywhere.

A picture here, a vase there — dishes, glasses, tableware, linens, furniture — all bestowed upon a mystified 21-year-old girl and a 22-year-old boy 40 years ago.

While finishing college, we lived a Bohemian lifestyle in one-room apartments.

Most of the beautiful wedding gifts had been stored away until we graduated to two-room apartments. It was from that time forward that the gifts became a part of our lives.

While I made the decisions as to which things should go, I was, in essence, saying goodbye to friends and family.

• • •

Over the years, a myriad of family gatherings had been painstakingly planned — deciding "who-would-sleep-where" was a prime solicitude.

Now, eyeing the crib, fold-up cots and sleeping bags that should go on the sale block, reminiscences of grandchildren being exhorted to go to sleep in strange surroundings flooded over me.

They usually had shown courage, but occasionally a fearful and imaginative mind precipitated rebellion. Much to my regret, they outgrew the visits and the crib, cots and sleeping bags.

Away they must go.

Books, books, books! The urge to flop into a comfy chair and begin rereading my favorite books — Gone With The Wind or Atlas Shrugged or Ship of Fools — overwhelmed me.

Only determination to tackle the task at hand overcame this capricious desire. Old college textbooks, volumes of the classics, outdated encyclopedias, books collected from our parents' libraries, reference books and precious children's storybooks had to be carefully scrutinized.

But carefully is a luxury for those with time to spare. Preparing our unneeded belongings for an auction was an exercise in efficiency. After a few hours, the words, "This goes — that we keep" were blazed in my mind.

Incomplete projects are an embarrassment when they're going to be displayed to the world. At one stage in life, I had been sure that weaving would suit my talents, but I found it took more skill and time than I had available.

The same was true of the knitting needles and yarn, undone embroidery patterns, unhooked rugs, boxes of paints and canvases, and fragments of material meant for future quilts.

This spilled over into the accumulation of stuff meant for tempting projects that were never attempted.

Off to the auction block they went!

Momentous vacation events full of trials and joys were represented by the display of sporting goods supplies. Sorting through the outdated equipment was perhaps one of the most emotional chores of the whole task.

So many happy family memories were attached to the accumulation of skis, ski poles and boots, tennis rackets, pingpong table with paddles and badly worn croquet mallets and balls.

Water skis with old tow ropes, tangled fishing equipment, nets, gas cans and on and on. It was a family legacy; we all worked hard and we played hard.

It was time for our five children to store up vacation memories with their children.

• • •

On the designated day, the auctioneer and his crew arrived early to move the furniture out onto the lawn.

Suddenly, our couches looked seedy and worn, like something one throws into the waste bin where it promptly becomes trash. There was great guilt involved with selling the couches; they had comforted us for many years and were almost like members of the family.

The mars and marks prominent on the wooden pieces of furniture were records of moments, some remembered, some long forgotten — some reckless and some accidental, but often connected to memorable events.

One can't keep scratches, gouges and stains.

The auction company took over. It was time for my friend Nancy and me to take one last stroll through the house and grounds.

Because I was not willing to stay to watch my life pass before my eyes, we got into the car and drove to a neighboring community to a restaurant where we reminisced, drank a farewell cocktail and ate lunch. We dragged it out as long as possible before returning home.

When I stepped from the car to observe a vacant yard, the impact of leaving a huge part of my life behind hit me hard.

I dashed into a sparsely furnished house, heard the echo sounds of empty rooms and felt the pangs of retirement.

Moments In Time: Sifting through the stuff of life 02/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 3, 2011 3:30am]
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