CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's been a long goodbye.
But I was ready.
It began several months ago -- a few drawers here, a few boxes there -- and ends next Saturday, when the dwindling contents of my house go up for sale at an auction house just up the street in Nitro from where I grew up.
The ordinary belongings, kitchenware and tables and appliances, have been spread among friends and charities, but the stuff I held dear, the antiques and quirky old trinkets, were held aside until the last possible minute. They were just things, but many still sting to part with.
They had been around so long, had moved with me from house to house, had often made the transition from being lovingly displayed to being somewhere less prominent to being tucked away in the attic or basement. But in a way, they were me. A representation of me. Perhaps not who I am now, but who I was at one time.
I come from a family that, for the most part, does not like antiques. They don't see them the way I do. Antiques appeal to my thrifty side because they're a useful investment. If you were to buy a brand-new dresser today and sell it a year or two from now, it's worth a fraction of what you paid. If you buy an antique dresser, you can use it for the next several decades and when you go to sell it, its value will have increased.
My brother has only recently been won over by the charm of primitives, thanks to his wife, but I fell in love with the beauty of old things when I was still in grade school.
It began when one of our neighbors had a yard sale. Among the many treasures I carried home that day was a camera you had to hold at your waist and look down into, rather than through. Even though the seller told me I couldn't buy film for it anymore, that camera fascinated me. I simply had to have it.
There was something irresistible about the retro look, and soon other yard sales helped expand my collection to a dozen or more.
Vintage toys lured me too, especially the wind-up metal kind. By the time I was in my early 20s, I'd fallen in love with simple oak furniture and old advertising pieces, especially hand-painted signs. I learned how to refinish antiques and began haunting flea markets and auction houses, staying until the very end because that's when the best deals could be found, after everyone had spent most their money or filled up their trucks.