Holy Traditions and the Sisters Who Keep Them
For years my mom and her 5 sisters talked about taking a few days and heading over to the World’s Longest Yard Sale. Living in the Midwest it wouldn’t be THAT far, and considering the sisters’ affinity for a good deal and the unique discoveries one makes when sorting through another’s junk, it was the perfect trip for them to make.
My Aunt Colleen had an extensive collection of nun figurines, religious kitsch usually portraying Jesus on the cross surrounded by shells (no I’m not kidding!), pink flamingos, and countless random chairs, as well as endless shelves of books, tchotchkes, and anything else she considered useful that someone else was planning to pitch. It might appear then that she is the inspiration for the sisters’ love of garage sales, but those who knew my grandfather recognize they come by the fascination honestly. According to family lore, he would come home from estate sales with boxes of what looked like junk, utilize one thing out of the mess, and then add the rest to his collection of things he was collecting for who-knows-what.It was very clear to all who knew them that a World’s Longest Yard Sale trip would be a sure success for the sisters (though maybe not for the family members who live in the homes where the loot would land). Sadly life got in the way and no trips were taken. It wasn’t until after Aunt Colleen lost her battle with cancer and all the hazards that come with the fight, that the sisters realized the urgency of their time together.
The following summer, in the good and holy name of Sister Mary Colleen, the sisters loaded up into Aunt Carol’s minivan and headed east to take part in the historic pickings. They laughed, they cried, they got lost, they ran into a KISS cover band – it was epic. And the tradition was born.
3 years into the tradition, the sisters were stopped in their tracks when my mom was diagnosed with the same horrific disease that had taken their dear leader. That summer as she recovered from chemo and surgery and began her radiation treatments, the sisters stayed home and took care of their own. There was disappointment in their acknowledgment that this year’s trip would be missed, but thankfulness that my mom’s treatment was going so well it appeared she would be here to resume the tradition the following year.
Today is August 6th. The World’s Longest Yard Sale is open for business through the weekend. The sisters, including my mom, loaded up in Aunt Carol’s minivan and took off for an epic weekend which will no doubt include laughter and tears and hopefully another KISS cover band.
As I picked up the phone and said to my Aunt Mary, “Have a great time! I’m excited for you guys, especially for my mom…” my voice caught in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes. I was taken by surprise at the emotion that overcame me as I barged innocently right into another reminder that my mom survived what her sister did not.
“Hey,” I said to my aunt, “do a lot of laughing and leave the crying to me back here. Just have a great time.”
All day and maybe all weekend I’ll be celebrating/mourning the trip they are taking. Maybe I should have them bring me back a plastic Jesus/shell night light to commemorate the vitality of traditions and endurance and family.