Friday, October 12, 2007
Estate Sales for Non-Vultures
An autumn rerun! It's been a few years since I first posted this and since Tom and I may go to an estate sale today (haven't heard if there's one nearby, but hey, you never know) I thought I'd share this once more. This time of year I'm all 'yard-saled-out', but the decorator and romanticist inside me never tires of estate sales.
Estate sales here back East should be advertised as Time Tunnel Trips. I tell Tom that I go to estate sales with him to tour the old houses, not really to buy anything. He sort-of understands that.
I shouldn't even go at all. I come away from these much-loved, non-altered, early 1900's houses and then it takes hours to shake the house lust from my heart. When I walk up the stairs of these old farmhouses, American Foursquares or Victorians, I'm catapulted into dreams normally reserved for nighttime. You know, the type where you wander around in a large, strange house opening doors and stepping into rooms you never realized were there.
Well, it's like that.
Usually I don't even see the knick-knacks displayed with price tags upon tables. And I pay little attention to the estate sale 'vultures' as I not-so-fondly call them, the harried, non-reverential people out to discover re-sell-able bargains. No, I wander zombie-like from floor to floor soaking up the pleasant vibes reverberating from the walls. The leftover aura from years-now-gone when housekeeping was a respected art and a happy family was all that mattered.
Through dreamy-dazed eyes I see yellow kitchens with their original glass-fronted cabinet doors (if there's an ironing board cupboard or a breakfast nook, it takes me days to recover). There's often green and red wooden-handled utensils beside the rainbow of Fiestaware and rolling pins. I think about the hands, now stilled, which used those things as I step through pocket doors and wander through the three-windowed dining room, barely scanning the dishes and embroidered linens on the covered table. No, I choose to peek into the cute little closet with the file cabinet and childrens' drawings beneath the stairs and the closet made into a library.
Sometimes there's a music room/ sewing room with a piano and a closeted sewing machine desk. I look at the old sheet music and the walls almost echo with a family singing. The sconces over the fireplace, the overstuffed chairs from the 1950's, the books in the built-in cases where they've been sitting for eons~~my eyes miss none of it.
By now I'm lost in nostalgia and feeling transported, alone, though the vultures are rushing fast-motion up the stairs past me. But I creep up slowly, touching the rail which the woman of the house must have touched twelve-thousand times. At the top, there are green and sky-blue taffeta formals hanging over bedroom doors with striped hat boxes just below. The bedrooms are painted pink, robin's egg blue or are wall-papered in stripes and have fuzzy worn carpet, the largest has a little bay-window-room where there are two chintz-covered chairs beside a table spread with vintage magazines and sepia-toned photos in gold dime store frames. And vintage clothes stuffed into closets. And a sea foam green chenille bedspread upon the bed.
Usually by the time I cross the hall, I'm wondering if people will walk through my home like this when I am gone.
There are 1940's toys in the attic and piles and piles of books, games and dress-up clothes. And a baby walker, the old kind with red, blue and green far-from-hygienic wooden beads. It's in the attic where I usually wonder if anyone helping with this estate sale once played with these toys as a child or if they were the ones who used flour-and-water paste in the scrapbooks in the corner.
I usually save the basement for last, because they push me over the edge. Basements, that is. Not the vultures (though they have been known to get rough). Often the basement is tiled 1950's style and there's an old kitchenette complete with enameled stove, refrigerator and a wringer washer. And a couch from the 1960's, oil paintings, a bar and paneled walls. I imagine teen parties in the days of Buddy Holley and Elvis~~it's impossible not to see all that in my mind.
If I buy anything before my return to this decade, it's usually just a trinket, a souvenir, maybe a small black ceramic elephant. I purchase it to remind me of a walk through a house and all the lovely visions I had there. Just a little something to help me recall a family, especially a woman, who I'll never know,a woman with an unknown story, who lived out her married-life in one house, with one man. And who I am almost certain, did so happily.