Saturday, October 15, 2005

in which there is shopping

While shopping with some friends, I stopped at an estate sale this morning.

The house was sold, the estate sale agents marking things down to half-price. There were forty or so people wandering through the house. Just a normal, everyday ranch house in a middle class neighborhood in the middle of Oklahoma City.

Someone in the house must have been a seamstress, because there were piles of Vogue sewing patterns, bags of buttons and thread. A few clothes were hanging in the closets, dishes, one of those oldtime address books where you slide the lever down the side and it opens to the right letter.

And it was that address book that made me pause. It felt weird to be looking over this person's collection of household items; it was like looking, without invitation, into a person's private thoughts and ideas.

Separated from the context of the person's life, objects both lose meaning and gain it. Who could tell, among the dishes and the collectible items, what was important to this family, and what was that gift they were given that they never quite knew what do with? Did they use the little jello molds, or did someone buy them in hopes of trying out a new recipe?

I'm not sure how I feel about estate sales. It's better than putting it all in a landfill, but it does feel like pawing to walk through a house that so recently was a home, putting a value of worth on the leftover objects.

My friends found some items they like; I had spent enough at the Oklahoma City World Market earlier (fair trade, so less guilt). I thought about some buttons and a cute little rocking chair, but we barely have figured out where we're going to put the things we do own in our current compact living space.

Maybe I'm just more of a garage sale person.


At 8:16 AM, Blogger jo(e) said...

One time when I was at an estate sale, I bought a pitcher and bunch of serving bowls. When the woman was putting them into a bag for me, I told her that the reason I bought them was because my mother had the exact same pitcher and bowls. (It was an old-fashioned floral pattern.)

We talked for a little bit, and then she said that she was the niece and that the stuff getting sold off belonged to her aunt. She said she liked thinking about the pitcher and bowls going to someone who had kids who would create some happy memories with them.

At 12:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jo(e) that was a lovely story

I don't think we have these kind of sales in europe - at least I've never been to one.

when my dad knew he was dying he sold off, gave away almost everything. And parcelled up nine boxes of his diaries, map collections, and photos (including slides).

The thing I loved getting the most though was his cowboy hat. It was so NOT him but he bought it on his only trip to the USA (Arizona) 2-3 years before he died. These Jewish friends took him to Las Vegas and there's a photo of him STANDING in the car - head (complete with hat) out of the sun roof - gaping at the casinos.

The hat symolises for me his love of life and ability to embrace it.

I wore the hat to church last Sunday. jeans and checkered shirt too - more of a dare than anything - but it felt G O O D !


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