You see this little trunk? You can find these pre-decorated at any crafting or unpainted furniture store for about fifteen bucks. However, their value increases exponentially when adorned with a little primary paint.
This past weekend was the fall carnival at John-Heath’s school. This event is a major fundraising affair for the school and has been done so long it is now tradition. There are games, concessions, hayrides, barrel train rides, an auction and, sometimes, a king and queen contest.
We got there a little late (surprise, surprise) One reason for this was that John-Heath was adamant that we take quarters and so we had to scrounge around for these. “No!,” he said. “We have to take quarters. It takes quarters to buy the tickets!” Now you and I know that they’ll take money in any form or fashion. But when a five year old is told to bring quarters then quarters it must be!
Anyway, he had a good time riding the rides and playing the games (he was quite good at corn hole) and eating a cherry snow cone with one of his best buddies Cooper. I walked with him and John for a while before heading on my own to the cafeteria for the auction.
This year, in addition to all the donated goods from local and not-so-local merchants and citizens, each class had made or arranged for an item to donate. The fourth grade classes made quilts. My nephew’s wife, who happens to be one of the 4th grade teachers, had her students bring in swatches of fabric from home from their old clothing, etc. She gave each one a 10” square and, with the help of parent/grandparent volunteers, she allowed the students to sew their square using her sewing machine. It was a large quilt and turned out just beautiful. It also happened to be the top-selling item at the auction.
The kindergarten classes contributed the aforementioned trunks to the sale. Each child in a class pressed their tiny hand in paint and then stamped it somewhere on the trunk. Each handprint contained their name. To be honest, when I first arrived at the sale I held no pre-conceived notion of bidding on it. I had not even looked at it up close. But the more I stood back and examined it from a distance the more I thought that it would make a sweet storage box for all the little mementos from this, his first year of school. I made my way around to the side and summoned a teacher who was helping with the sale. I asked if she would 1.) check and make sure his print was on it and 2.) tell me where it was located. If his print was on top I would just have to buy it. She did. The imprint of his left hand was on the right side of the trunk. Hmmm. What to do?
The first of the trunks (Ms. Amanda’s class) went up for sale. It brought $76. By this time, I had already convinced myself that I should try to get the one from John-Heath’s class. If I didn’t I would surely regret it, especially if I could get it for $76. Yes, $76 is way too much money to spend on such a cheap little piece of wood so I would just consider this as my donation to the school. The trunk would just be icing on the cake.
As the bid crossed the $100 mark I was beginning to rethink this donation thing. I consider myself a generous person but, as the trees in our yard yield only leaves and nuts, my generosity must have limits. My sense of fiscal responsibility should come first.
I have heard that going to auctions can be addictive. There’s no doubt bidding at auctions can be highly stimulating. I know I felt a certain amount of nervous energy flowing through my veins with each nod of my head toward the auctioneer. I did not look around the room so I had no idea with whom I was competing in this bid for that little white trunk. I told myself that I was being really silly. Quite ridiculous, in fact. I should just go buy a trunk, invite all his class over for a party and paint one myself. But those ole heartstrings kept tugging. I would go to $200 and not a cent more.
At $160 I turned to my dad and asked if I should just up the bid to $200 and try to scare off the other bidder. No, just stay slow and steady. At a $190 bid by the other party I felt a little heartsick (for two obvious, but different reasons). I made my final nod at $195.
Ren thought it was neat that people clapped when the bidding was over and I had won. John told her that people did that because they were thinking Wow! What a dummy! Better her than me. I don’t care though. Yes, economically, it was a poor choice of a purchase. But one of these days, when his hand is much larger and wears a class ring, I’ll still have that little white trunk with his small left hand stamped in green.
And should I ever start to feel too much guilt or be reminded of my purchase by my husband I will kindly remind myself or him that it could have been worse. I could have paid $725 for a quilt.