Sunday, January 24, 2010

The quick and the dead

Yesterday's post about the purchase of my used pajamas produced a host of opinions about estate sales! Who knew people were so conflicted? It seems that a lot of people out there agree with Howard that estate sales are depressing because you are buying the things that belonged to someone who had passed away.

Well, Howard has been trying to explain that it is not that, strictly speaking. It is that the people who go through the estate sales treat the items with disrespect. At least, they ignore that a life was lived there, a life that odds are has ended.

Here is what is strange. I go to these estate sales, I have to say, because of my mother. If my mother did not want to go, I probably would not go! Which I have laughed about with my mom, because the truth is, my life has improved because of these sales. I have a grand kitchen timer, a kitchen scale, new pajamas, all kinds of things I did not know that I needed but now have, because of going to estate sales with my mother.

Now, my mother is older than I am and yet she is not disturbed in the least by macabre thoughts while we are at the sales, I will tell you that right now.

I am the one curious about the people whose sale it is. She is not!

I am the one whispering about what the names of the people are, figuring out what religion they were and whether or not they were music fans. Although truth to tell, their musical tastes have less to do with sentiment as with the odds of finding Leonard Pennario records in the basement.

I like to figure out things about these people because I respect them. Sometimes over the years I have bought unclaimed family photographs and have displayed them here and there. I have actually done that. If the people were Catholic, I go in and take the Catholic items: missals, rosaries, scapulars, statues. I do not want harm to come to them and I do not want the sacred items desecrated. And sometimes I run into someone who wants a missal or a rosary and then I have one.

All I can think is that the, ahem, deceased would appreciate this. You want your treasures to go into good hands. If they have bum families, oh well. Where these people are now, they are beyond all that.

Still you cannot take everything. One memory tugs at my heart. That was years ago when I was at an estate sale in the home of a woman I figured out had been a reporter for the Courier-Express. There were extensive scrapbooks of her work, and it distressed me that no one in the family had claimed them. Great family, you know. You would have thought she would have had a niece, a grandchild, someone.

So sometimes I wish I had taken those scrapbooks. Journalists' honor!

Except where would I have put them? I do not have room for my own clips!

These are the matters with which I wrestle.

On the other hand one thing to keep in mind is that we really can tell only so much about a person's life from going through an estate sale. We tend to feel sorry for people because they are dead. Just because a person might not have a family to claim his or her stuff does not mean that the person led a sad life. Besides which this person, wherever he or she is now, has more pressing concerns than who is going to buy that one dresser. That is what my faith teaches me and I believe it.

Philosophizing! Deep thinking, as I sit here in my used pajamas.

A penny for your thoughts!

Better still, how about half a penny?


Howard Goldman said...

One thing for sure, that nice old lady did not die in those used pajamas. They were from Victoria's Secret. Zut alors!

Edmund said...

I feel your pain about the estate sale depression. We walk through these houses and look at every little thing this person or family collected over the years. We stand there and haggle over a glass insulator in someone's basement workshop. (glass insulators are my estate sale weak spot.) Then there is the guilt: The guilt that we feel when we realize that we are buying this item, and some other family member down the road will have to deal with our collections; someone will be haggling about that same item again.

And about those bum family members: some people do not hold memories in things. Yes, I will want my grandmother's glass vase with the sterling silver inlay, but not just because it was hers, but because I like it. I will not keep the whiffle ball that still sits in a basket in her garage that we used to play catch with. I've got my own memories of a much younger grandmother, and they are not stored in a scratched up old plastic ball.

Prof. G said...

A friend of mine once told me, disgustedly, that when an old bachelor uncle of his died, one of his aunts tore the old man's house upside down, looking to see if she could find any porn - or anything else indicating what she thought was perversion. Sometimes strangers at estate sales can be more respectful of the dead than kin.

Larry said...

Never have I been to an estate sale, yard sale or anything of the sort. Since I am poor, I only buy what I really need to get by. Mostly food! But I do have a penny's worth of thought about this discussion just the same.

Why would it matter if something had belonged to someone who had died? We are all going to die. And we already have many things that were touched, built or owned by dead people. Think about it and try to find something otherwise, regardless of where it was acquired.

The dead are dead. Why be concerned about them? Their time of influencing anything is over. This time will come to all of us without exception. It is normal and to be expected.

What about the people that made the bricks in Big Blue? Or mined the coal which produced the ash that Howard just crawled through? Should not all of these people be looked up, investigated, mourned etc. because they were in fact, once people? I say, good riddance to all of them. Many more will surely replace them. The bible say. 'Let the dead bury the dead'. In other words, do not be concerned with them any more.

Bingles said...

If the family has no want or needs of the items, I say it is better for other people to purchase them and be of use again... rather than sit in storage or the trash forever.

I haven't been in a long time.. but I love estate sales. I admit though, it does make me sad knowing that these items are for sale because of someone's passing. But hey, some day someone will be purchasing OUR items!

Larry said...

@ Bingles

Not mine! They will have to pay the trashman to take mine! :-)

Mary Kunz Goldman said...

Larry, you're right, if we worried about owning dead people's stuff no one would own any antiques!

Mary Kunz Goldman said...

And Prof. G, what a macabre story! I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Anonymous said...

Estate sales have intrigued me for 30 years! My home consists mainly of doo-dads from estate sales. I collect masks, vessels, animal and religious statues, Prayer books, and rosaries. Everything is displayed around the house. Their accumulation provides a warm ambiance throughout. The previous owners' personalities (spirits),I like to believe, are happy that their "stuff" has a good home!

Mary Kunz Goldman said...

Anonymous, I can picture us running into each other at an estate sale and getting into a fight over a missal! But what is with the masks and vessels? I am wondering now if you live in Lily Dale.