Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Amazing Sale

Last Friday I thought I was spontaneously stopping by an estate sale.  I had never been to one before and I had a little time between the post office and whatever was next on my list (Facebook?  No, surely something more important, although now it seems to have slipped my mind).  There were a lot of cars on the cramped street so I had to pull over and let all the cars that had gotten there after me pass by and then I finally found a lonely little spot way down at the end of the street.  I always feel personally affronted by such circumstances, "How rude.  Don't they realize that I have to carry a big baby all that way?  They don't have big babies.  They are selfish.  Oh wait, I am trying to lose weight.  What a great opportunity."  So instead of changing my mind, I lugged my big baby down the street, around to the back of the house and in through the garage.  The scene was typical of any other garage sale: an old fuchsia sofa (I need a new couch, but my walls are red, cringe!), random gardening tools, some broken chairs -- no portent of anything noteworthy.  I wondered if this was the sale in its entirety, but then saw that there were people inside the house.  I sidestepped my way unsuspectingly through the narrow back door and found myself in a veritable Aladdin's Cave!  (Angels singing -- Aaah, Aaah).  Everywhere I turned another treasure caught my eye.  In the butler's pantry were tiny Limoges saucers for .50¢, the kitchen held heaps of trays and bowls overflowing with kitchen ware.  The dining room had sets of china and old Japanese framed prints.  The living room had beautiful furniture -- lacquer hutches and a mahogany secretary.  I found myself wanting to transport the contents of the house lock, stock, and barrel to my own.  But I resisted and merely crept around looking and pondering.  There was part of me that felt like a plunderer, rummaging through another woman's things while she is powerless to do anything about it.  And the thought coming quickly behind  that you really cannot take it with you.  You spend your life scrambling around  and really in the end, very little of it matters.  Those impressions kept my hands loot free for a while (or was it that big baby?) and I felt somewhat somber as I looked at the scraps of her earthly life:  She was a mother -- three boys and one girl; her husband was a prominent doctor in the area; she was catholic; she loved dishes, crystal, and silverware; she was a quilter, a gardener, a reader, a cook, a traveller, a homemaker.  She had made a lovely home and I felt a comforting spirit there.  I turned, and there on a table in a back room were my dishes that I use every day!  I smiled and thought, "We are kindred spirits.  No wonder I like every single solitary item in this house."  This discovery changed my tune as I began to think that she wouldn't mind, with her newly acquired perspective from the other side, if her things went to another house with someone who would enjoy them.  I thought about my own eventual demise and the inevitable letting go.  It will be fine.  With that I picked up a lovely set of cake plates -- each with its own flower pattern, grabbed the little saucers I had seen earlier which would be ideal for sushi dipping, and then went to stand in line.  I made my purchases then stopped back by the dining room.  Hmmm.  What a table!  It matches my hutches perfectly.  And those chairs.  I don't like the way that lady is eying those.  In fact, I am pretty sure that those belong in my house.  I picked up the phone and told M that I was going to buy a new dining set.  "We already have a table."  "I know, but we this one is perfect!"  We went the next day to pick it up and everything was discounted, in fact by the time we left everything was 75% off.  Here is what we ended up with: dining room table with three leaves and six chairs (same brand as my free hutches), loveseat (exactly the same shape as the one I have wanted online that cost $3500 and I was considering saving up for, given to me free because I bought the table), a black afghan with bright flowers (exactly like the one in "Stranger Than Fiction" that I admired so much that I checked out "Crocheting for Dummies" from the library because it had the pattern and I was going to try to make it myself even though I don't know how to crochet), the game "Acquire" (Matthew's favorite game ever and no longer sold in stores and one which I need never play since I am obviously expert at acquisition), my set of dishes -- I now have 18 dinner plates, time for a party! (she had them marked $100, but then gave them to me free when I told her they matched ones I already have), a hammock (I have wanted one for five years and have scoured clearance aisles and garage sale in vain.  I didn't want to pay too much and it ended up that I didn't), a Christmas tree skirt (with pom poms on the edge), a cake slicer (my mom has the one that I grew up with and that was her mother's.  I have looked for one like it at antique stores and thrift shops for years and there it was sitting patiently with its yellow handle that matches my kitchen), and various other plates, bowls, etc.  I think that is all of it.

The first question is should I ever set foot inside another estate sale?  There would not be room enough to receive another haul like this last one, but surely nowhere else would I be able to find so many of just the right things.  I have been having dreams about the sale almost every night (it really had an effect on my subconscious) and woke up quite disappointed on Monday that I couldn't go find one somewhere.  And what did they do with the things that didn't sell (hands wringing, did I need something else)?

And the next question is, what does this all mean, if anything?  It was incredible to me that so many things that I have been searching for were right there at that one house.  I really am not looking for that many things, but I am learning to be patient and just wait for them to find me.  What if I hadn't gone?  Would the Earth have stopped spinning?  Was I meant to go there?  Was it a coincidence?  Or was it a blessing, a tender mercy if you will?  And if so, why?  Things aren't that important, and certainly me having things isn't that important.  And there are plenty of more deserving people in the world who seem to have it pretty rough.  This is a question I ask myself often about amazing little occurrences that happen in my life and I really don't know the answer.  What I do know is that I want to give credit where credit is due.  I know that God loves me and I am sure that I am supposed to "pay it forward" somehow since I have been smiled upon.   I am grateful for what I assume was a unique experience.


AndieF said...

Wow. Sounds like you got some wonderful things. I also loved the part where you talked about how you could see her life in her stuff, but it sort of made me laugh and cringe a bit when I think about what people would see in my stuff when I die. Probably that I was cheap, had lots of kids running around, and I that I seem to have a thing for green.

Lovely post.

normal mom said...

That was a blessing! I'm so excited for you!

Stacey said...

I think you are reading too much into it. ENJOY YOUR STUFF!!! You have a big family and I know you will all enjoy your new treasures. If I was that lady or her family I would just be thrilled that someone was going to enjoy it all. You should post a picture of your table. Also, I can now see what you and M will be doing in retirement.

The Queen Bee said...

I am utterly astonished that this was your FIRST Estate Sale! Mary, where have you been all these years?

Emilie said...

I'm with "The Queen Bee" -- your *first* estate sale?!? Gasp! I was giggling at your post. I have been that wild-eyed woman on a buying spree at an estate sale before -- and I'm quite sure that it provides entertainment for the people working the sale. It is such a rush, though, don't you agree? I was getting excited just living vicariously through your post. Yay for your serendipitous finds. I would've totally snagged that afghan had I gotten there before you. ;) Where was this gem of a sale and which company put it on? It has been ages since I've been to one ... must get back on that circuit! xoxo

Anonymous said...

I LOVE this post! It is so you, and so me (except that I could never express myself about it as you did, IF I was fortunate enough to have it happen). You were really in the vortex, or due for blessings, or something. It just goes to prove my theory that if you want something, and are willing to wait, it will be offered to you at a great price.

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