The website Letgo.com boosts: “Make money selling what you don’t need and find great deals nearby.” The service provides an outlet for getting rid of old appliances, furniture and cars.
What this service doesn’t refer to is the emotional toll of letting go of family property and possessions freighted with meaning and long-term attachment, like the Longenecker homestead near Rheems, Pennylvania, a house and acreage belonging to our Grandma Fannie Longenecker and then to her daughter, our Aunt Ruthie.
On Friday and Saturday, June 23 & 24, 2017 the Longenecker family began the process of letting go of a dearly beloved piece of real estate and its contents.
We went through the gamut of emotions mirrored in the faces pictured in a similar scene that occurred exactly 40 years ago also in the month of June in nearby Elizabethtown, PA.
Her Story, June 1977
It took a day and a half to auction off the things which belonged to the late Ruth C. Kraybill at 2 Center Square in Elizabethtown. Intently watching the proceeding was her housekeeper of 54 years, Emma Baker, known as “Emmie” to her friends. Emmie is 87, five years older than the woman for whom she kept house. But to see her push a lawn mower around the yard or dig up the vegetable garden by herself, you never would have guessed it.
She would often pop into the Chronicle office during the summer with a bunch of flowers, which grew profusely. The staff got a kick out of glancing out the windows, which overlook the yard, and seeing her scooting around doing her work.
She loved Ruth and the family she worked for for so many years. She’s going to miss her home in Elizabethtown, but she also loves the Lord and knows He will take care of her, said Emmie.
Emmie watched the auction from a window all morning, wrapped in a shawl. Friends said she wasn’t feeling well. But in the afternoon she came outside for a while to meet and talk with people.
A couple of days later she was alone in the bare house, a small pile of belongings beside the door, waiting for a ride to the Messiah Home. She said she’s going to miss her friends in Elizabethtown and hopes they will visit her. And her friends, knowing Emmie’s energy and the active life she’s led, think the Home will be quite a bit livelier now.
(Paraphrased from The Chronicle, Elizabethtown, PA, Thursday, June 16, 1977)
Our Story, June 2017
Our ancestors, the Horsts, Martins, and Longeneckers, have had a powerful bond with farmland in Lancaster County which moved them forward, generation after generation. In one sense, we are breaking that bond as we have let go of acreage in Bainbridge, another field on the edge of Rheems, and now the old homestead built in 1912.
This past Friday and Saturday the auction process touched us in a deeply personal way. Early both days, people lined up on Aunt Ruthie’s porch to sign up for bidding numbers.
When the auction began, I noticed faces watching the proceedings intently.
Head auctioneer Rhonda Siegrist Nissley, a woman my daughter’s age, gestured to bidders boldly and pounded the gavel at point of sale. It was a sale circus, sometimes onlookers circling two auctioneers simultaneously both inside and outside the tent.
Click below to see Rhonda in action
One of the bidders, dairy farmer Glen Longenecker and his wife Sharon, bid on signs like this one and other Longenecker memorabilia to add to a designated area on their farm dubbed The Longenecker Museum.
It was a heyday for antique dealers, who hauled treasures to their waiting vans both days.
The house, its empty windows looking like sad eyes, moaned a little when its “playmates” left. But not as loudly as we did – at least inwardly.
We are still in negotiations to pass on this lovely home to a fine family who will roam the lovely grounds and fill its walls with joy.
Is there a childhood home or one you’ve lived in with which you have strong emotional tie?
What mementos have you kept?