Why Romantics should not go to estate sales

So this morning, the Igors and I went out to see a park near us that we haven’t visited. And it was lovely, with some really neat areas to fish (for the Igors, I’ll pass on fishing, thx). On our way back, there was a tiny little sign for an estate sale, so I promptly had to slam on the brakes and make an immediate right turn.

So, we get there, and the Igors stay at the car with a couple of apples and some books and I head in. The woman who had passed away had the most astounding collection of weird stuff. She was totally a pack rat, but a pack rat of high caliber stuff. The vast majority of it was things like shoes and bags and clothes…all of them in teeny, tiny sizes. But there were some strange things tucked in, like a lumberjack sized leather jacket, and some really intriguing sketches and a slew of copper cookware, and Royal Dalton china.

And I got to talking to the people who were running the sale, and got the story of this woman, who was named Diane.

She had been a child in London during the Blitz. She’d been separated from her parents, and spent a number of years in the countryside while the war was ongoing. She’d only been allowed to have one pair of shoes each year, and so when she grew up, she had a thing for shoes. There were so many shoes. Shoes that had never been out of their boxes. Shoes for days. Shoes. And matching bags.

She started sketching when she was a child, and grew up to be an illustrator. She worked as an illustrator for Harrods, and then for Neiman’s when she came to the US. She drew all the fashion illustrations for the newspaper ads, before photography in print ads was common. She loved to cook, and had a kitchen full of professional quality copperware. Because she was British, she loved her tea, and had dozens of teapots and tea sets. She traveled around the world, sketching the places she visited.

Her husband died years and years ago, and she fell sick a few years ago. Her son came back home to take care of her, but was killed in a car accident last year. Her neighbors and friends and church people had been visiting and taking care of her for the last year of her life.

As I was listening to her story, I found little china things where one leg had come off, but she’d propped it up against something to hold it up, and I found myself wondering what it had meant to her, that she had kept it. In a drawer was her confirmation bible, ancient and cracking and obviously read for 70+ years. On her nightstand were delicate china eggs that could be opened and treasures hidden inside. So much stuff was still mis en place, that it was almost like snooping, and I sort of found myself feeling weepy that she had died, and I didn’t get to meet her because she seemed so very fascinating.

I meant to buy her sketches, but somehow left without them, I just found myself overcome with emotion for someone I didn’t even know. Just seeing her life spread out on tables, her things being haggled over; I don’t know why, but it bothered me, and I had to go. Even now, I’m tearing up thinking of it.

I think I may go back, and buy the broken china doll that obviously meant so much to her, just because I can’t stand the thought of it ending up in a dumpster somewhere. And some sketches, because someone should remember her and be able to tell her story, even it it’s someone who didn’t know her.

Romantics should not go to estate sales. It’s a dangerous place for the weepy.

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