Parting with a play kitchen

photo by  Lauren Rushing

This post mentions my surviving son.

They alert me of their interest by emailing me.  I am baffled that not one of them has used a complete sentence, as if we are texting.

hello what is best offer

yes im interested i could go today let me know

It is day three, and after nineteen exhausting messages back and forth with one particular buyer, we have a deal. Her nineteenth message suggests that because her husband's truck is in the shop, we deliver the play kitchen to her doorstep. She never mentions compensating us for the trouble of hauling it to her house in a neighboring town. I had shut down the idea of delivery in a previous message, but somehow she believes raising the issue again will persuade me. 

She has been extremely flaky throughout our interactions and I am fed up with her antics. I send the twentieth and final message back to her:

We never wanted to haul this thing, much less deliver it to someone's doorstep, in the first place.  By putting the item on classified-ad-site, we were counting on a buyer to come and haul it him/herself. This is becoming too much work for a simple resale, at well below the asking price, and not even an offer of paying extra for the inconvenience of us hauling and delivering.

We can't wait another few days for you to figure out a plan because of the time constraints on the listing. I'm going to go ahead and move on to other leads/buyers.

She sends me a couple more messages, feigning obliviousness to the fact that I am unwilling to negotiate any further. I have an irrational, unsettled feeling that she'll find a way to track me down and demand I sell her the kitchen.

This is only the third time I've tried to sell something this way, and I'd forgotten what a hassle it is to haggle with faceless strangers. I tell myself that none of these sentence-less shoppers deserve to have what should be Zachary's play kitchen. I knew this would be difficult, but given that I'm judging prospective buyers and getting worked up about who will be using the kitchen, I'm not even sure I can part with it at all. I think about deactivating the listing.


As my surviving son outgrew his clothes, shoes, car seats, books and toys, we carried them down carefully, to be stored in our basement, like offerings to an alter of hope—that a third child would one day exist and outlive us. When that third child arrived, those chronologically curated offerings, which had been accumulating around our basement alter for almost six years, instantly became Zachary's belongings. 

This past summer, we had our first house guests since Zachary's death, and in order to provide them a proper bedroom, we carried many of his things back down to the basement. This time, we stacked our son's things hastily, in heaps of devastation and disillusionment. Our eldest, now our youngest—both dead. Our alter of hope, decimated, in ruins beyond repair.

The play kitchen Zachary should be using had been collecting dust and discarded junk for more than a couple of years now, my older son having long ago abandoned cooking plastic peas on the stovetop. I looked at it, siting there in all its pointlessness two weekends ago, and weighed the options. Take the kitchen down to the basement and add it to the sorry stash of Zachary's futureless belongings, or part with it by selling or giving it away to a family who wants it.

As I readied the kitchen to post for sale, I wept. Zachary's little hands should have been all over it by now.  His top half bent over, diaper peeking out the top of tiny pants, reaching into the washer/dryer combo to pull out a washcloth. Chubby hands pulling on the refrigerator door, retrieving the fruit or vegetable I ask him to find. Day after day, socializing him as to how to pretend rather than actually gnaw on the play food or slobber all over the plastic teacups. 

There was so much life to be lived in that four foot wide play kitchen.


I receive a few more messages of interest regarding the kitchen, to which I respond with curt answers and little enthusiasm. After an email exchange with what seems to be a reasonable woman who is offering me a decent price, she says her boyfriend would like to purchase and pick up the kitchen on Friday night. Figuring they are probably as unreliable as the other couple of buyers who were no-shows, I shoot off a quick email telling her we are available anytime after 6:30 p.m.

I am sitting on a stool, pan-searing salmon with lime and cilantro, when he comes to the door on Friday night. My husband ushers him in to see the play kitchen while my surviving son folds paper airplanes. I show the gentleman how everything works—the magnetic closures which are difficult, at first, for little hands, the washer/dryer door that requires a little finesse to close, the sliding pantry door, the timer that ticks and dings, the gallon bags of play food, pans, plates, cutlery, kettle and teacups I've packed up neatly—and as I head back to the salmon, he hands me a wad of cash. Before I know it, he and my husband are on either side of the wooden kitchen, carrying it out of my house forever. 

I am crying when my husband joins me back in the kitchen. He holds me and explains how he told the man he just acquired a special kitchen, one that should have been used by our son Zachary, who died almost 22 months ago.

Later in the evening, I get an email from the woman.

I'm sorry for your loss. We will take care of the kitchen toy just as much as you did. I know it has sentimental value. Beautiful kitchen! Thank you so much! My 3 year old son loves it!

I don't know how to feel. I'm shocked and saddened to think about someone else playing with it already...  yet I'm somehow satisfied that Zachary's kitchen made its way to a worthy family and that it will be used again by another little boy. 

Have you parted with any of your deceased child(ren)'s things? How did it go?