a life well spent

Towering above the grassy clearing, sat the stone mansion. Garish, neon “Estate Sale” signs flaunted the driveway up the hill like floosies in a lady’s parlor.

I stepped across the threshold, feeling like a stranger at another’s wake. I felt awkward invading the privacy of this home, rifling through their belongings in pursuit of a bargain. Yet the lure of vintage linen and antique furniture moved me from room to room–caressing a stack of carefully pressed handkerchiefs, testing  a well-worn rocker, measuring Victorian drapes, speed-reading old books. An old organ with carved mahogany legs told stories of many nights when one played for another. A stack of mystery books by the fireplace described the listener.

The large trash can in the corner caught my eye. Things of importance only to the dead had found their way there—like the 1918 and 1920 Maryland University yearbooks. Memories don’t belong in a trash can. Retrieving the yearbooks and other knickknacks from the trash, I sat in the old rocker. Buyers scrambled past me in search of treasures while I turned the brittle pages, trying to piece their life together: Mary and Bob met in college, married right after graduation, and shared a life together for 75 years.

Here, in this beautiful, 250-year-old home they created memories through laughter and tears. Bob was in a barber shop quartet, and collected sheet music that strangers were now buying for a dollar a piece. Should he come walking through the parlor, he’d say, “Hey, that’s not for sale, buddy!” Mary loved Christmas. She loved Christmas so much she left behind a room full of decorations to fit every possible Christmas theme–traditional red and green; soft pink Victorian, all white and silver. What would she say to the fat woman in the blue sweater who was mixing the pink angel with the red reindeer! How they must have loved their grandchildren!–the basement was reserved especially for their visits–stuffed bears, board games and a big basket of toys.

I must have sat in that rocking chair for a very long time. While I was piecing together Bob and Mary’s life, I missed out on the bargains. So I left with my hands empty but my heart full of appreciation for a life spent so well together

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