by dave ammenheuser

Stories of What It’s Like Returning Home After 25 Years

Trains, planes, and automobiles.

Pigs, angels, and Longaberger baskets.

Civil War artifacts, presidential campaign buttons, and vintage radios.

My parents, both of whom died in the last four months of 2020, were not hoarders.

But they were certainly collectors.

Clearing their 50-year old Thurmont-area home has been sometimes entertaining, often informative, and frequently surprising.

As the executor of their estate, one of my most difficult tasks has been finding a future home for their belongings. Which items do I donate to charity? Which items should be sold on Facebook Marketplace? And what should be held back to be sold at a big yard sale over Memorial Day weekend?

Choosing which items fit into which category has consumed many hours over the past few months. Selling items online has been quite the learning experience. It has also provided the extra benefit of meeting friends, neighbors, and former Catoctin classmates whom I haven’t seen in decades.

Those reunions have been awesome.

But there have been some excruciating painful and disappointing moments, too.

I’ve learned that no-shows are a common occurrence when selling online. Person X tells you over social media that they desperately need the item you are selling. Person X then pleads with you to hold the cherished item until the next day.  Person X promises to meet you at a specific time. Then Person X doesn’t show up. It’s happened. Many times.

Those episodes don’t keep me awake at night. I did lose sleep when someone openly questioned me on social media why I was selling my late father’s Harley-Davidson leather vest. He criticized me, saying I was selling my father’s “beloved prized possessions” only for the money they would bring.

It was hurtful and couldn’t have been further from the truth. Since my brothers and I do not ride motorcycles, it was my decision that his leather vest should be worn by a biker as they ride their hogs around the region. To me, a piece of my father would still be worn by someone who would appreciate it. To me, it was better that the vest be worn by someone riding a Harley across our community’s roads than gathering dust in a closet for 25 years.

It’s the same reason I chose to distribute my mother’s beloved pig collection. My mother, who was raised on a Carroll County farm in the 1950s, had a passion for pigs. Her father raised them when she was a child. As an adult, she owned hundreds of them. Ceramic ones. Wooden ones. Stuffed animals. Piggy banks. Cookie jars. I sold dozens to neighbors and friends who knew my mother. I sold hundreds to a young collector near Detour. I’m saving many more to give to those who attend an upcoming Celebration of Life event for my parents.

I’ve sold Civil War muskets, Lionel trains, and vintage toys; vintage cars, gazing balls and Hallmark ornaments. It makes me happy to know that parts of my parents’ lives now reside in Emmitsburg and in Blue Ridge Summit, in Creagerstown and in Woodsboro, in Sabillasville, and all of the communities in between.

Yet, there’s so many more of my parents’ memories to share. So, if you knew my parents, John and Liz, please stop by our yard sale over the Saturday and Sunday of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, May 29-30, at 12710 Creagerstown Road. Obviously, if you didn’t know them, you’re welcome to stop by, too!

John Ammenheuser’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle vest.

A small portion of Liz Ammenheuser’s pig collection.

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