Sunday, April 22, 2012

Estate Sale

My wife and I love to stop in at the occasional garage sale or estate sale in search of cheap-o treasure. Yesterday Carla found a duck umbrella for $2.50! Estate sales tend to be odd and sad, however. Here are the material remainders of someone's life, reduced to bric-a-brac that strangers haggle over. It makes one think about the futility of surrounding ourselves with stuff. Carla and I are trying to keep our lives and our home ever more simple and unencumbered (and this is not an easy task, especially when we continue to visit garage/estate sales!).

But the estate sale we stumbled upon yesterday (where Carla found her duck umbrella) was different. This couple, now apparently deceased, led an obviously interesting life together and had traveled much. There were black and white photos--taken in the 50's or 60's--of a smiling couple in black horn-rimmed glasses standing in front of various landmarks. Other photos showed the same bespectacled couple, now older and heavier, in other interesting locales. The house was stocked with language books, paintings, pottery and doodads from South America and Italy and Scandinavia and Russia (when it was the U.S.S.R). There were shoeboxes filled with buttons and lapel pins from political campaigns and labor unions and the American Friends Service Committee and various Communist and Socialist organizations. He smoked pipes and cigars ($1.00 for an empty Havana cigar box), she worked a loom and played piano. This was clearly an interesting couple, who left behind an intriguing mystery for interlopers like me sifting through their artifacts. Were they college professors? Travel agents? Bohemians? Labor organizers? Communist moles?

When Carla and I are gone and strangers come to rummage through our belongings, I hope they are likewise intrigued by the things we leave behind. I hope the flotsam and jetsam of our lives speaks well of us. We need to get busy building our mysteries.


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