The last thing I would ever want to do is carry out my grandmother’s wishes. This is because, most of the time, they involved an act that was at best selfish, oftentimes deceitful, or at worst just plain hateful. But at one point this past Sunday evening, I stopped in the middle of the task at hand and realized that was more or less what I was doing.
Over the years, my grandmother was a sucker for anything that was collectible. Rather, anything that was “collectible.” She had bizarre notions of what would be “worth something someday.” I was reminded of this when the estate sale folks pulled out the Batman lunchboxes she had been holding onto since I was still in elementary or middle school. I had seen those lunchboxes sitting on the closet shelf for years, maturing to their highest value. Sadly, since they were incorporated into a box lot at the auction, it’s impossible to know how what the value ended up being. One time at my mom’s recently, she pulled out a bag of utter crap that my grandmother had her procure, including magazines about JFK Jr.’s plane crash and horrible comedy videos. My face wrinkled in disgust, and I declined to have anything to do with the bag or its contents.
My grandmother was a sucker for any way to sneak a buck. Whether it was using the Tide coupon when buying Cheer or calling to complain about a perfectly valid charge, she was cheaper than anyone I knew, and sneakier than anyone else about it, too. Unfortunately, she also saw credit cards as a way to spend free money. The bills left behind after her death are testament to that.
When Rick and I went to the Florida in January, we retrieved some of the magazines she had been saving over the years, as well as some 45s that at one point had belonged to my great-uncle. This past Sunday evening, I spent about an hour taking pictures of the covers and listing the magazines on eBay. There are a few Life magazines, on topics ranging from JFK’s funeral to the death of Princess Grace. There was one interesting collectible magazine called “Is This Seat Taken?” It describes itself as a “photo-cartoon book,” applying humorous voice bubbles to scenes from famous films like “Ben-Hur” and “Spartacus.” An example: Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra saying, “But I haven’t got more cleavage.”
As I was listing those magazines, I realized I was doing exactly what my grandmother, if she had ever had the occasion to become familiar with a computer, would have done with them: try to make a buck. At first, I was sort of appalled to realize that I was fulfilling the goal she’d had in mind decades ago when she set the magazines aside. But as I thought about it more, I came to terms with my actions.
It’s funny how genetics parse out, what gets handed down to you and what gets left behind. I can be cheap, sure, but I’m not a cheat. I don’t collect items that will be “worth something someday,” but when I see a deal I can take advantage of, like my Brendan Benson scam of old, I’ll do it. So yeah, maybe I’m not hoarding “collectibles” on the shelf of my closet or passing off fake coupons, but I do love a good deal, almost as much as I love a good sale. If you do it honestly, there’s nothing wrong with taking something, whether it’s a Batman lunchbox or a Life magazine, and trying to make something more of it, to see what value time or scarcity will bring. It’s a game we all play, to one degree or another.
And I play the game everytime I check the status of my auctions — a couple of watchers, but no bids yet. Truth be told, I’m not trying to make any great profit. More than anything, at this point, I just want them out of my house. It’s hard to resist getting sucked into the game, sure, but at least I’m playing by the rules. At least I have that going for me.