I Spent My Childhood Helping My Mom Sell Dead People’s Junk
I was only 8 when I began working as an undercover security guard at estate sales. Among the dusty trinkets and used shampoo bottles, I learned a lot about human nature.
Illustrations by Luyi Wang | Edited by Lilly Dancyger
I was put to work at the age of 8. For a few bucks an hour, I walked around dead people’s homes pretending to look at stuff. I picked up toys and pretended to play with them. I wandered into master bedrooms and stuck my feet in too-big dress shoes. If nobody was around, I walked over to the kitchens to look at novelty coffee mugs with fading images of Graceland or Destin or Hawaii. Sometimes I just sat in living rooms and pretended to read the Bible.
At the time, it seemed pretty normal. My mom ran a small estate-sale business, so working for her was more like quality time than a subversion of any child labor laws. The point of all this was to remain incognito. I saw it more as a secret mission than an actual job. But the goal was clear: Pretend to be a kid who’s strayed too far from his mother and make sure people don’t steal stuff. You’re a security guard in tiny street clothes.
For a long time, I loved it. I loved dragging my feet …