The Highest Bidder

“There have been horror films set in storage facilities,” says Gil.

“I can only imagine,” says Maud.

Gil likes to run the cart through to our storage locker, especially if he’s got Maud for a passenger.

gil running

We’ve kept about half our belongings in the deep freeze since moving to the Cabin.


Too. Much. Stuff.

“Every increased possession loads us with new weariness,” said John Ruskin. What did John Ruskin know about it? Between the English countryside and Mayfair, he had plenty of space to stash his private editions and his watercolors.


Will we ever find Maud’s backpack and sleeping pad so she’ll be equipped for her next adventure? She’s going to New Mexico to conduct research for her senior thesis, on descansos, the elaborate roadside shrines that mark auto fatalities. In New Mexico they’re very grand and very sad.

In A&E’s “Storage Wars,” people bid on the contents of repossessed storage lockers after looking for ten minutes at just the front of the container. Bidders get excited and spend a lot on what turns out to be junk. Our locker wouldn’t inspire much action.

Television also brings us a scene in “Breaking Bad” where Walter White opens a typically bland looking locker to find his wife has used it to hide an enormous brick of cash, probably 4′ by 10′ by 10′. Only thing about it is they can’t spend this treasure or he’ll go to jail. For a long time. Walt asks how much is there and Skyler says, I have no idea.

You could say that about the number of books stored in our cage.

“Is there anything we put away in storage that you miss having?” I ask Maud.

“My birthday piñata,” she says. We had a “nonviolent” piñata commissioned for Maud’s 5th birthday, its papier mache in the shape of a carousel horse. There were ribbons for the little tykes to pull to release the candy rather than bashing it with sticks. The horse had a breastplate with Maud’s name on it. We knew it was in storage someplace with its tail broken off, the tail floating  someplace in storage too.

“Is there anything you would want out of here?” I ask Gil.

“One thing I desperately want to have right now,” he said, “but won’t be able to find, is the picture of my mother and my father in their 20’s. I want to display it at my mom’s memorial service. But it’s lost in there.” That picture proved to 14-year-old Gil that his parents were young once, his dad holding a pipe and his mom looking devilish.

“Maud, what do you think is in all those boxes?”

maud's back

“Books, clothing, photos. Dead bodies.”

Sure, there have been evil deeds in storage lockers. We saw a thriller once in which a serial killer kept the clothing trophies of his victims in a locker. And in Silence of the Lambs Jodie Foster enters one to find a head in a jar.

But we find good things. Better than good. Softball gear, from Maud’s high school varsity team. Tents. We went to North-South Lake, remember that, our fragrant late night campfires? A wedding dress, still lovely in its ever-browning box. Copies of books we wrote, with passion. Gently used snorkeling gear. Let’s go, let’s go away somewhere warm and sandy sometime!

Gil finds the army jacket of Acton, his father.

acton's jacket

Maud finds her carousel horse.


I lift down something precious, the lacework made by my Tennessee matriarchs. “Really?” says Gil. Our house is so small. For some reason I need this work by me, from the deep freeze to my warm house.

lace from storage

We have a conversation. “How much of this stuff would you remember if it all disappeared one day?” said Gil. “How much of it would you really miss.”


“All of it,” I say. “I’d remember it all.”



Filed under Art, Culture, Fashion, Film, Home, Jean Zimmerman, Publishing

6 responses to “The Highest Bidder

  1. Heartbreaking. They’ll come back for those boxes, some day, I bet.

  2. And his wife silently acceded to what he was doing, as I recall.

  3. Downsizing can be a good thing. But sometimes…

  4. Lori

    That’s the problem (perhaps ‘problem’ is the wrong word … issue?) with knowing who your ancestors are: you want to keep a piece of them around. Something they did, a picture, some way to remember them. I have some things my grandmothers made. I have things from when I was younger.
    I’ve also got boxes in my life. I was forced to downsize after a nasty divorce.
    Of my five children under 19, three decided to live with my ex after the divorce. They wanted nothing further to do with me. The courts allowed this because they were over the age of 14, the age at which the courts in my state allow the children a say in their residential situation. Unfortunately, they left all their things with me because “there’s no room at Dad’s place. We’ll come get them later.” They have still not asked for anything back.
    Of course, that meant I no longer needed the three bedrooms + where we had been living. I couldn’t afford that size of a place anymore, so … I had to go through my kids things. I had to try to decide what they would want when they grew up. It was heart-breaking.
    Of course I kept all the girls’ stuffed animals, and I kept all the boy’s little cars and toys. Books I kept, even the ones that they had read when they were toddlers. A set of baby clothes that each child had worn. Odds and ends. Favorite blankets that they had left on their beds. Legos were stored in big buckets.
    Broken things were thrown out. Dolls with missing limbs. Torn doll dresses. One doll shoe alone cannot be kept. Cars with only two wheels, tracks that no longer connected, bits of electric motors, balls of wire and cannibalized electronic parts, all gone. Worn out baseball mitts, broken skates, broken bike helmets. Broken dreams.
    Big buckets full of tissues and tears went into the garbage.
    That was back in 2009.
    I didn’t opt for a storage unit. I just keep boxes of the kids things in storage in a closet here in the apartment.
    Someday they will want to know for themselves who Mom is and what she is really like. Until then, I store their childhood. There are albums of pictures.
    I treasure the memories.

  5. Gil Reavill

    That movie: “We saw a thriller once in which a serial killer kept the clothing trophies of his victims in a locker.”
    The Dead Girl, with Brittany Murphy and Toni Colette. Excellent, if you have the stomach for this sort of thing.


    Yes. When I downsized (dramatically) over a period of ten years or so… I sent truckloads of WONDERFUL THINGS to the auction house. And I’ve kept almost ALL of the itemized receipts with circled prices (winning bids) and some unidentifiable descriptions and numerous asterisked items of particular interest. All that stuff… sometimes I wish still had some of it… reduced to a stack of paper in a red folder.

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