Last week I was popping into a few antique stores in search of a modern-rustic (oxymoron?) spoon rack for the set of silver spoons I recently was given from my grandmother’s collection. While in and out of the stores I noticed several signs for an estate sale nearby. It was a beautiful sunny day, so I went.
When I first walked in the door I noticed the amazing view! The house overlooked the escarpment and river – I was in the USA but I could see Canada clearly across the water. I perused the entry table and saw several sets of silver spoons. There must be a spoon rack! I asked the first two estate sale workers I saw, but they were positive there was no spoon rack available. Another speed bump in my search for what was apparently an elusive find, yet I continued on and decided to browse through the house (my true motivation was to just look at the house – it was grand and unlike other houses I had seen before).
It wasn’t long before I felt extremely uncomfortable. It seemed pretty obvious that this was someone’s long-time home and I think it was pretty safe to assume that the person had passed as everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) was being sold. For example, I saw a woman walk out with a plastic cutting board.
I felt like I was intruding into this person’s life. I heard people laughing and balking over finding or not finding something – it all felt really disrespectful. I kept thinking about who this person was as I trampled my unfamiliar feet through their bathrooms and hallways. There were skis and snowboards, there was a meditation room, an office with a telescope – it seemed like an adventurous person had lived there. There was a ton of possessions. Clothing, kitchen ware, sofas, desks, lamps, silverware, pillows, books, movies, electronics – the list goes on.
Aside from feeling like I didn’t belong in the house looking at things that weren’t mine, the other major thought I had was how we really “can’t take it with us when we go”. There was so much stuff! I understand why a family would have a full estate sale, even down to the plastic cutting boards: it’s just too much! How does one decide what to toss, donate or keep? Memories are in everything we own. It’s a huge job especially amid the sadness of losing a loved one. Also, this stuff filled a mansion – how could anyone move it all?
I left the sale feeling very odd. As I have tried to make sense of my mixed emotions that day, I have also been paring down my possessions. I’ve been asking myself what to toss, donate or keep. I have remembered things and felt emotions as I’ve gone through the items in my home. I think that’s it – memories are in everything we own, but they are not physical. We can take memories with us whether we have the stuff or not.
I hope that no one ever has to hold an estate sale for me. I hope that I can find life and memory in people and relationships, and while stuff can be the vessel I use to make memories (like skis or a telescope), I hope I don’t ever put more value on it than on those in my life.
If a bunch of strangers do someday go through my things and make jokes or act disrespectfully in my home, I will come back as a ghost to scare them and their children.