Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Tim and I went to an estate sale. It was held in a beautiful home, leaded glass windows, beautiful woodwork, a fireplace. The woman had died, and her belongings were being sold. I'd never been to an estate sale before. Basically, you just walk through this woman's home and buy her stuff. Very surreal.
I learned a lot about the deceased. Mary was Catholic. There were a bunch of catechism books, dated 1917 (surely not hers!), every blank filled with a child's careful script. Crucifixes and roasaries and books about the saints, and Bibles. But she also loved martinis. And entertaining. She had lots of books on how to be the hostess with the mostest. A linen closet filled with linens, formal ones, casual ones. Dishes for every conceivable food you can imagine. Deviled egg plates, bread baskets, fondue ware, picnic things, crock pots, pickle plates, relish dishes. She was trapped in the 1950s. Crocheted couch pillows and boxy furniture with wooden legs. An old hi-fi with piles of albums. Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra. She played golf. She was a world traveler. I think that she was a professional woman. There was a small office with a Remington typewriter there. A bookshelf contained old books on short hand, and office management, and presenting a professional appearance. She cared a lot about her appearance. Her makeup was in the medicine cabinet. Perfumes on the bathroom counter. Hair dryers, the old fashioned ones with the bonnets that you put on over your head. Curlers with white hair still in them. Clothing hanging in the closets and in her dresser drawers, shoes in their racks, costume jewelry. Family pictures on the walls, in frames on the tables, photograph albums, souveniers from her travels. She must have been married to a doctor because there was another room full of old medical books. I imagine that he died some time ago, because there was no men's clothing in the closets. Little old lady cloth coats, and rubbers over little old lady shoes hung alone in the downstairs hall closet. Every last thing in that house had a price tag.
It reminded me of a charactor from the book that I'm reading 'The Enchantress of Florence'. She is called 'the memory palace'. Although she exists in the present, her mind is trapped in her past, her body pantomining her memories, her eyes vacant and staring at something which no longer exists. Not much different from Mary. I picture Mary's world shrinking, person by person, with the passing of years, until in the end, there was only Mary left, and then she, too, was gone. All that was left were her things, no person to claim them, no one left that they meant anything to. A bunch of strangers walked through Mary's house, looking at the most private details of Mary's life, picking through Mary's things.
It was a very hot day, but I shivered anyway.
I was very happy to leave Mary's beautiful home.


Bush Babe (of Granite Glen) said...

Wow... a step into someone else's life. I know that surreal, kind of intruding feeling. And I know stuff is just stuff, but sometimes a bit of the owner stays with the stuff somehow. I hope Mary died having lived a full life - perhaps she did. She certainly didn't have to worry about packing up. And that's gotta be a blessing!
PS The last post gave me a weird sensation - how incredibly lucky was your BIL?? My God. Being a nudey rudey in the main street beats the bejeezus out of being a corpse (or amputee) in the main street. So close. *shudder*

debby said...

It looked to me as if Mary did have a very full life some time back, and then the world began to grow into another time, and she chose not to, and was left behind. That's when I imagine that things got lonely.

Once I got clipped by a running chain saw. Blood everywhere. It didn't hurt at all, and I just stared in shock, because I did not expect my body to be intact, but it was, and when my father swore and shut off the saw, I stood there with a relieved smile on my face. That freaked him out, as if I were about to be hysterical, but I was just calm and grateful. Dave was embarrassed and grateful, I'm sure. My sister said she heard a truck in the driveway, and looked out the window, thinking, 'What is Dave doing home...' When she saw him get out of the truck, barelegged with a jeans jacket tied on him like a little apron, and stride towards the house in his big black boots, she knew something had happened, but couldn't even begin to guess what.

Melinda said...

Popping over from Rhubarb Whine's blog because your comment gave me a giggle.

What a lovely glimpse at this Mary's life. I think it fitting she got to share some of herself, even if it is with strangers, after she was gone. What an interesting life she must have lived. Perhaps a quiet one, but it seems a happy life?

Mikey said...

That's so very sad!! Love the way you describe it though, like we were there too. I was riveted.
But how sad, no one left to claim her things.

steviewren said...

It seems to me that this is the way everyone's life ends more or less, depending on how long you live. The older you get the more and more of your life falls away. Children grow up and move out, spouses die, friends die, you become infirm and can no longer get out into the world. Your world shrinks to the confines of your home. As you can tell, I've wondered how to combat this cycle. No matter how relevant you try to be, sooner or later life passes you least most of us. That is why the occasional story about some hip and active senior is so interesting. They are the exception. Also, this is when having a big family pays off I would think...always a child or grandchild to interact with hopefully.

What do you think? How do you plan to age? You always seem to think these things through.

Jayne said...

How sad there was no one left as a witness to her life except strangers toting up the monetary value of her personal belongings :(

Tinoneetiger said...

I must admitt I found it sad to, thought the telling of it beautiful. Makes me realise how much of myself, my tastes, my personality is wrapped up in my home. I have children to pass them on to but life doesnt always turn out how we wish. Perhaps i will be the last, who knows... what a sad thought