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Mother, daughter unload decades of Christmas cheer

News editor

Anyone who stopped by Shirley Reusser’s Christmas-themed garage sale early Saturday might have thought she hadn’t sold much. Tables were jammed with a vast selection of miniature trees, ornaments, dishware, Santas, and snow people, with more underneath.

But the sale started Friday, and Reusser and her daughter, Diedre Serene, unloaded a lot that day.

Reusser pointed to a row of tables covered with decorative trees.

“We restocked that,” she said. “I had about 80 little trees there yesterday. I think I sold about 40.”

Serene indicated a solitary large box containing an artificial Christmas tree.

“I had probably 17 trees that size,” she said. “I brought them down from the attic. The one that’s there, if it doesn’t sell, I may put that back up.”

Most of the cache belonged to Reusser, who has been collecting Christmas decorations for years, as well as making them. When she and her husband, Dwayne, lived in a 10-room farm house with a double attic, there was plenty of display and storage space.

“The day after Thanksgiving I’d start decorating,” Reusser said. “I had trees outside, inside, in every room.”

Dwayne died in 2007, and two years later Reusser said goodbye to what she called their “hobby farm,” as they never actually farmed, and moved to a smaller house in Hillsboro. She’s since remarried and moved to a duplex in Wichita, so downsizing her collections naturally followed.

To listen to Reusser and Serene describe together her collections is like watching a tennis match, each in turn ticking off another on the list: Teddy bears, Santas, Hallmark ornaments, Christmas tree pins, costume jewelry, foreign spoons, and more.

“There are so many things I like,” Reusser said. “I don’t feel I was deprived growing up, but collecting is kind of therapy.”

She’s not unlike many others who, like Reusser, grew up during the Great Depression, when people with very little saved everything they could.

“I never threw anything away, and that was bad,” she said. “I even saved boxes.”

Serene remembers festive holidays at the farmhouse with lots of guests present to share in the fancy decorations and traditional meals. But little of her mother’s collecting zeal carried over to her, she said.

“My big Christmas thing is Nativity sets,” Serene said. “I have a lot of those, and I did get rid of a lot, just because I want to get to one tub. I’ve made a rule that if I get something, I’ve got to get rid of something. But I really don’t collect anything because I like shoes and purses.”

Reusser gave some of her Christmas tree collection to her grandchildren last year, along with clear glass ornaments she filled with decorations tailored to each one’s interests.

She won’t be giving leftovers from the garage sale this year, but she said she’s not quite sure what will happen with it all. The urge to not throw anything away still tugs at her.

“I thought maybe we could have another garage sale next year,” she said.

Serene, wearing a skeptical look, smiled.

“That’s up for negotiation right now,” she said.

Last modified Nov. 17, 2015

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