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Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

Cape Fear Voices/The Teen Scene

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If We Are Not Careful…


Recent events reminded me of a lesson I had learned and stored away. It came by way of advice from a Muppet. Yes, that’s right. A Muppet. With changing circumstances in our lives, my husband and I decided to sell our lovely winter home in North Carolina. It was a whirlwind experience, with two offers on the second day of showings. Both bids were for the same price. We chose the cash offer. Our buyer wanted to quickly conclude the process, so the standard requirements of inspections were to be within ten days and closing the following week.

My husband and I scrambled to complete minor repairs, box up donations, and discard items. Next, we focused on packing and arranging for the furniture and items to head back north with us. Then, the boom fell.

Eight days in, the buyer backed out. He was only purchasing our beloved home as a rental property. His accountant deemed it would not be as profitable as initially thought. Shaken by the experience, we harbored relief that our warm and friendly tiny enclave of neighbors would not be inflicted with a revolving door of new tenants. The realtor reached out to the other buyer. “Don’t worry.” she promised, “We’ll sell this house again.” Easy for her to say.

Our thoughts and emotions flooded in. Would the other buyer still be interested? Had they found another place when ours was not available? Does this mean that we would need to stay longer than planned? With pressing obligations in NY, should we leave and come back when the house sells?

The phone rang. Hallelujah! The second buyer still very much wanted our home but wanted the furnishing included. But much of the furniture was now gone. Would the buyer be okay with that? Should we re-evaluate our belongings? Would any of these items enrich our lives?

An essential line from a children’s movie, The Labyrinth, came to mind. This was a Jim Henson classic starring David Bowie as the Goblin King and Jennifer Connely as an unhappy teenager coerced into babysitting her baby brother, Toby. In a fit of pique, she wished that the Goblin King would take him away. Bowie had happily done so. But Bowie was not my focus.

When the young heroine searched desperately to locate Toby, she met a strange, hunched-over old woman. Ladened with all of her possessions, high upon her back, she has carried this burden, watching it grow as she amassed even more things throughout her life. She warned the youth, “Beware, if we are not careful, the things that we love to own begin to own us.”

That advice kept ringing in my head as I looked at the accumulation of items before me. Furniture purchased thirty years ago, still in excellent condition, was loved not just for its style and functionality. Instead, because it was given as a gift from my husband’s parents. Each item before me had a history, the dining room set was a gift from my grandmother, and the wall unit was the first big purchase that we had saved to buy. Money was always tight when we were first married.  This piece signified that we were economically able to enjoy the finer things in life.


There was no extra room in our NY home, and even if space could be found, our styles and tastes had changed over the years. Memories associated with these home goods would not fade. It was time to let things go.

We would miss our close-knit community of friends and our warm and sunny winters in NC. The furniture would go to the new owner, an active military man who probably had limited space for personal possessions. We wish him well in his new home. May he enjoy the furnishings as much as we have.

Before heading north, we cleared out the last things. I came across a book by Marie Kondo that my daughter had given me. “Look at an item and if it does not spark joy, remove it from your life.” Advice not that different from that sage Muppet seen ages ago.

After contemplation, I tossed it into the library’s donation pile.

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