As the Fairfax Estate Sales team and I prepare for our ‘Teaching Traveler Estate Sale’ I found myself surrounded by very familiar sights: heavy boxes of outdated schoolbooks, lesson plans spanning decades, notes, term papers, yearbooks so old you can’t read the covers, photos of everything, mementos and various small treasures given to a beloved schoolteacher. I remember seeing these same items in our home and all the letters and notes were addressed to my father.
Those same stacks of dusty letters and cards containing wedding photos or newborn baby pictures with other happy updates were scattered around the home. These from students that had moved on to the next phases of their lives, but wanted to share their wonderful news with their educator from when they were younger.
I saw the same type of faded class photos from each year he taught going back 30+ years, the stuffed animals, gifts and trinkets kept from those students that meant the world to him. And, as I helped clear the stacks this weekend, I was reminded of those same faded class pictures with all those smiling faces I would see in our garage or the shed and wonder where they all were now.
I always wondered why did my father keep all of these things? Why keep all of this paper & clutter? We could be using the space for OUR things! Who were these people taking up space in our home?
Why did all of these useless boxes have to follow him around? These dirty boxes packed with items from his teaching days in New York City tagged along with him all the way to Florida where he remained until he passed away. Why did he keep all of this junk? Was this even normal? We worried about this for many years.
We lived in a house surrounded by these mementos from these ‘other children.’ The ones that came before us and yes, we were a bit jealous. These ‘other kids’ were his family before we came along and would remain in his life until the end. We had to share apparently and we accepted that fact. He was so proud of those other children, as well, and we all needed to share in his admiration.
My dad and our current client are some of the great ones. The ones that shaped lives and gave all they had each and every year and the students were thankful for the opportunity to have crossed paths with such a fantastic person. How do I know? Because the mementos that are left behind speak volumes. Teaching is a gift.
As estate sale professionals, we don’t read the letters or cards, but if they are anything like the ones my father possessed, those cards are testament to a genuine person doing their best to train a child to be a good person. And, we all have that teacher that we remember who did this for us. For me, her name is Irene Matza and she was my Jr. High Science teacher. She was just delightful and so cool! I still remember her long dark hair and the hippy vibe she had. If you were lucky enough to land in her class you were truly blessed. After graduating my friends and I stayed in touch with her for years, but somewhere in college we lost touch. However, to this day I still think about her and how she made science a little more interesting & less intimidating for me.
I always wish there was more time to properly reachout to a huge community when a great teacher passes. Maybe if there was more time, we could track down as many people as possible and see if we can reconnect them with an item or memento or just let them know about the passing. There’s just never any time to do that and the items end up lost to history – such was the case with my father’s collections. When he passed away we no longer knew who all those children were and those fond memories were laid to rest with him. We no longer needed those yearbooks and class photos. It was time to let them go.
I do take solace in knowing that somewhere out there my favorite teachers kept something I gave to them and it was my teacher’s treasure. All the notes, the cards, the stuffed animals, the pictures, the letters…they are still out there continuing to bring a smile to their faces.
I wish we could take photos of all the items we are currently sorting or any of the items we sort through each sale like this, but it’s best to keep that private. I can just share that those gifts were their treasures and it didn’t matter how small or seemingly insignificant, they kept it with them.
You may find yourself thinking about that one special educator that pops into your thoughts every now & then and you wonder where they are now or how they are doing. You wonder if they ever think of you and do they still have that special Christmas ornament you made or purchased for them in 1981?
Just know this: you meant a great deal to that person and they genuinely cared about you. You touched their lives as much as they touched yours. Yes, they kept that ornament and it was delicately wrapped for each and every move. We honor that special bond you had and it will never be broken.R