Moving on with vigor (and vignettes)

This column is adapted from a recent email to friends by longtime Sperryville resident (and former Sperryville columnist) Barbara Adolfi, following a recent yard sale held as she and husband Ray Boc prepare to move to more manageable quarters on Water Street.

Downsizing is complicated. On the surface it seems that I am just clearing space. However, as my treasures went home with other people this weekend, I realized there is an unanticipated process happening. I was reviewing various stages of my life with each sale.

The 1940s pig pitcher went home with a woman who was delighted to have it because it paired with the cookie jar that she had retrieved from her grandmother’s home. Now my pig, which I had lived with since I was little girl, was going to a new home. At 74, I was saying goodbye to my childhood — and reenacting my social work career, as well as my role in the family of the over-functioning eldest child . . . making sure that all was well.

Ray and I had sorted through our Revereware and found enough extra that ultimately helped furnish a new church kitchen and the neighbors’ kitchen. Since both of our families had built their Polish (Ray) and Italian (me) immigrant economic foundations at the Revere factory in Rome, New York, it was somehow important to know our pots would serve people rather than being dumped at the Flatwood Mall.

For two days women and girls have looked through the treasure chests of Ray’s mom’s costume jewelry. What fun to see people discovering the bling of a generation past, including a grandmother who was delighting in finding the large glitz that her granddaughter enjoys! My mom’s 1950s alligator purse was snuggled on another woman’s arm by the end of the day.

The child’s table chair to which my children and grandchildren transitioned went home with a mom who was excited to find just what her daughter needed as she has outgrown the highchair.

I loved it when someone found it exciting to discover the vintage books that had sat in my parents’ shelves for years, and another woman was thrilled to have my beaded belts from Guatemala to dress up her sweater dresses.

And a weird experience . . . a man came back three times, in his words “low-balling” me to sell him the Russian “outsider art” painting that I acquired from the estate of Robin Purnell. He was mad as hell when I would not sell it to him for $100. He raised his bid by $50 with each return visit, but was so nasty there was no way I was letting the painting go home with him.

Curiouser and curiouser . . . two brothers in their 50s bought the antique, World War II-era German handmade puppets and puppet theater. When I asked them what their interest in puppets was, the brothers just said they like to collect things. One brother proclaimed that people come to his door asking to buy things but he refuses because it makes him happy to look at his various collections. He just says no. They are staying in Front Royal tonight and thinking about whether to return in the morning, by appointment, to purchase the very collectible Pelham marionettes!

What we did not sell at all included Harriet’s milk glass, carnival glass, miniature vases and pitchers and all the cut glass pieces. I know that Lillian Aylor is always collecting nice gifts to give to the seniors and I will invite her to select whatever she wishes for them.

Ray and I had a steady stream of people all day today and most of them were buying. We could never have been organized to unburden ourselves of all these material goods without the help of our friends. As late as 6 a.m. this morning I was walking through the house looking for more items to take to Water Street. The more I let go of attachment, the more excited I get about moving into this next phase of life.

I could go on, but this is enough! We enjoyed sharing our breakfast bagels and coffee in the mornings and turkey chili for lunch with our friend-helpers. Ray and I are a good team and balance each other as I have energy in the morning and he keeps going later in the day when I began to fade. He took care of all the signs, improvised lighting in the garage, made major and minor repairs and charmed all our visitors.

We are beginning to get excited about the move. There is a wonderful word in Italian — forza! — which means to keep going with strength and vigor. This will be one of our goals.

Barbara Adolfi