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I’m afraid I’m heading for a Grey Gardens sort of future. Why? Because I live in a big, old house. A house my family has owned for 80+ years. We’ve decided it is, in fact, too big and too old for us, now. Too hard to clean, to maintain, to heat. Too much that needs updating (knob-and-tube wiring, anyone?).

We’ve decided it’s time to look for something smaller, but the problem is . . . things have collected. As they do. For . . . well, more than 80 years. We can’t take it all with us or we’d need a house just as big as the one we say we’re planning on leaving. (We say we’re planning on leaving it—note the emphasis. It’s a process.) So we’re downsizing before the fact. Tossing, recycling, depositing old clothes into the Planet Aid drop box, and hosting seasonal garage sales.

Years ago, there was nothing simpler than a garage sale. You eye-balled the item and gave it a guess, stuck a price on it, and then you haggled. Or, if highly motivated, you took whatever anyone was willing to pay. Now, we’ve got eBay and Amazon and a host of other internet auction sites telling us the contents of our cellars and attics are worth much, much more, and this throws the entire enterprise into confusion.

In our family, we own various mundane items that are listed online as “collectibles” at surprising prices, but sadly there’s no data telling us whether anyone is actually buying them. One doesn’t relish being the rube who sold a $2 frame with a Monet hiding behind a paint-by-number scene, but is anyone really going to pay $133 for a copy of the 1968 classic “The Adventures of Ookpik”?

You’ve never heard of Ookpik? No, I’m not surprised. I’d forgotten him myself, which brings me to the second unpleasant reality of the garage sale routine: you begin rediscovering things you hadn’t seen in years, and proceed to form a bond with it exceeding any attachment you ever held when the thing was still part of your everyday world.  Thus it has become with some of the children’s books collecting dust in the far reaches of a room in our barn that my father once used as a modest library. Most of the books of my formative years have lived undisturbed  in that room for decades, and now they are making their way to the sale table.

The  yellow-spined Nancy Drew series is gone already, as is my paperback collection of Laura Ingalls Wilder, both to the daughter of a friend who I hope will enjoy them as much as I did. For many of the rest, I am taking one last, long, lingering look, and I’ve decided to pay homage to some that are stirring particular memories, and which I can now appreciate, with the benefit of hindsight, had some impact on how I came to see the world.

Let’s begin with “The Adventures of Ookpik,” published in 1968 by Golden Press, Inc. in New York.

These were Mad Men days, remember. We had not yet learned that the term “Eskimo” was derogatory to anyone. The foreword of this book—unusual in itself, since it is essentially a step up from a picture book—explains that an ookpik is “the Eskimo name for the Snowy Owl of the Arctic”, and that all royalties from the book and all Ookpik toys would go to the Fort Chimo Co-operative Association “for the benefit of the Eskimos.” So, this book was my first brush with a global health NGO. These encounters would become more common in later life.

After reading the foreword, I suddenly recalled that the book did, in fact, come with a toy, which was very like the drawings in the book. It was a small, stuffed bundle of yellow fluff that stood on wide, black felt feet, and when I shook it, the black buttons forming its irises would shimmy around behind the clear plastic of its golden eyes.

At the risk of sounding pretentious, I’ll say the story is one of self-discovery. A little creature hatches out of an egg, all alone in the icy Arctic North, and has his own little Admiral Stockdale moment. “‘Who am I?’ he said to himself. ‘And what am I for? I must find out.’”

He spends most of the book trying to figure out if he’s a rabbit or a seal or maybe a different kind of bird. Eventually he ends up as a pet in the arms of a young Eskimo boy, blissfully happy.  Yes, I know. Wrong lesson. Wild animals aren’t pets. Whatever. It was 1968, people! We thought they could be.

Anyway, my little Ookpik toy is gone (or at least I haven’t found him yet), but the book? I’m keeping it.