Forget the turkey. What is my bid?

Most Thanksgiving hosts prepare for the big day by grocery shopping, baking, and cleaning, but I’ve dusted off heirlooms and “treasures” for a family auction. Mind you, no money is exchanged and if two people show interest in something, we work it out.

We will hold the auction in our living room after dinner when full bellies will have everyone in a generous mood. The day might go like this.

“And what is my bid for this nicely boxed 32-piece crystal punch bowl set?” I try for an auction chant, but I have yet to master that skill. “It’s been in the family since ’75. It has served orange pineapple punch for several baby and wedding showers, some of yours in fact.” I glance at the women in the group, and my niece catches my eye. 

“I remember the year you used this bowl for Thanksgiving,” she says. 

“If you bid on it, I’ll throw in the recipe.” My niece raises her eyes at her boyfriend, who gives a slight nod. That’s all the encouragement I need. “Sold!”

My husband, Frank, brings out the next item. His auction style is less dramatic. He sets his bag of leather craft tools on the coffee table. “I can’t see myself getting into this anymore. I taught my grandfather how to use the tools and lace. One thing he made was this.” He waves around a tooled checkbook holder.

“Wow,” my grandson pipes up, “that must be old!”

Frank grins and nods. “I taught your mom how to “tool” when she was just a little older than you. She made saddlebags. First, she cut the leather, then tooled the pieces into a floral pattern, and laced them together. She got a first at the State Fair in 4-H.” 

Our daughter nods. All eyes are on her. “I’d love to have it, Dad. Thank you.” He hands her the bag, and she gives him a hug.

I heft up a mythical “elephant apple,” directing my gaze at my grandsons. “And what’s my bid for this petrified elephant apple from Baraboo, the circus capital of the world?”

“Elephant apple!” my brother pinches his nose and groans for the benefit of the little boys. “Pee-ew!”

“That doesn’t look petrified,” our elder grandson says. “It’s a rock painted gold.”

“And sold by a clever business person.” I chant, “I have a bid from the tall red-haired guy over there.” I turn to my grandson. “Will you raise?”

He nods.


I present my grandson with the mythical petrified elephant apple.

Frank goes next. He pulls out an old leather doctor’s bag. “This belonged to my great grandfather. I don’t think he was a licensed vet, but he helped save many farm animals.” His tone softens. “When I started basketball practice, I needed something to carry my uniform. My family couldn’t afford a gym bag like the other guys had, so I had to take my uniform in this.” He lifts it so we can see the cracked leather. “At the time, it bothered me. Now I realize it shouldn’t have been such a big deal.”

My youngest grandson says nothing, but his furrowed brows tell me he’s thinking deeply. 

“Benjamin?” I ask.

“I don’t think you should feel bad, Papa.” 

“You’re right,” Frank says. “After all, I was lucky enough to get to play.”

Benjamin’s brows are still furrowed. “Can I say something?”

“Go ahead.”

“If I had the bag, I’d keep my favorite rocks and treasures in it.”

“Sold!” Frank hands him the bag, happy to pass on a piece of family history.

My husband and I have one more item to share. He unwinds our son’s old leather belt that he wore as a five-and-six-year-old. The leather is worn and split, but the buckle is still “cool looking.” Jon had an extra strut in his step when wearing this belt. I can see that little boy’s confident stride as if it was yesterday.

We pass around the belt and the photo of Jon wearing it on the day Frank and I married. People comment on it, but no one will treasure it like we will. Frank gives me an approving nod when I tuck it back in its box.

This Thanksgiving, my family and yours will have the chance to give thanks, enjoy scrumptious food, and share precious stories and memories. And to that, I say, “Sold!”

6 Replies to “Forget the turkey. What is my bid?”

I LOVE this column! What a nice way to streamline your belongings at the same time you enrich your family with special memories. I’m going to do something like this with my girls.
Thanks for the inspiration!

I’m glad you found merit in the column, Gayle, and that I inspired you. Let me know how it turns out.

This is the best idea I ever heard. I will start getting things ready for my auction but I think it will be a summer action when everyone is home!

Hi Jane,
I’m glad you got something out of the column. It makes downsizing more fun when I can picture passing on treasures to family members. Thanks for the reply.


What a wonderful idea. A great way to pass on a bit of family history. Having the story behind the item gives it the value it needs to be cherished and remain in the family. Thank you for sharing.

Yes, exactly, Deb. It’s a win-win!

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