A Heartfelt Message of Gratitude

A Heartfelt Message of Gratitude

I’m pretty sure that the woman holding the small brown stool had a ponytail and was wearing a burgundy sweatshirt. The significant thing here is the small brown stool.  The woman was holding it as she exited the yard of my late mother’s house, about four hours into the day-long estate sale being run by George Gunn and his staff from Alameda Museum.

The small cottage on Clinton Avenue had held and displayed the belongings and treasures that had illustrated the last 61 years of my mom’s life, the years after she moved to the Bay Area and called it home.

The brown stool had been purchased at least 50 years ago at a garage sale or an estate sale and had been easily integrated into service: sometimes as the seat where the youngest sat at dinner parties, sometimes as a small table for her granddaughter to use as an art surface, but most often as the pedestal that held the family’s telephone, in the days before phones resided in pockets, purses or non-dominant hands.

Seeing the stool brought forth some emotion I had not been expecting along with almost as many tears as were shed upon her death in February. I had carefully and lovingly sorted through her things, setting aside only what I would be able to use in the future. But seeing that stool …

In the end, my husband helped put it in perspective. “We still have the best things of your mother’s” he reminded me. “And, I added, “the best things of my mother’s cannot be bought or sold. Instead, we’ll carry them with us for the rest of our lives.”

So, in the end, I’d like to thank George Gunn, curator at Alameda Museum, who accepted the key to the cottage a few weeks ago and said, “Now, I hope you can let go of the stress and let me do this for you.” 

Thank you to his staff who tirelessly marked every single thing, from furniture to half-empty bottles of bleach to light bulbs and office supplies. 

A big heartfelt thanks to members of his crew who tried to intervene when I rushed into the house five minutes into the sale to retrieve something about which I had changed my mind. Regrettably it had been picked up by someone for purchase, but as I turned on my heel and set about relinquishing it, I could hear members of the sale-day staff politely approach the potential purchaser to ask if she would be willing to change her mind. She was not and I don’t blame her. It was something very adorable.

Big thanks to my daughter who, more than once and from 800 miles away, talked me through the process of letting it all go. “It’s just stuff,” she would remind me. “Grandma would not want you worrying about this.”

And finally, a big thank you to those who took my mom’s stuff to new homes. Those treasures have good mojo; they lived in a house that was full of love, gratitude, curiosity and tolerance. So many of those belongings brought great joy, not just to my mom, but to all members of our family. We hope they will bring great joy and enjoyment to your home, too.


Laurel Yeates is the former calendar editor for the Alameda Sun and an Alameda resident.