An event that occurred during the course of the business of an Estate Sale Manager
Reflections of a Christmas Past
I am given to reflection at this time of year and thinking of an estate sale from Christmas past. My business as an estate sale manager feeds my love for history, adventure and romance and takes me to places that can often fulfill all those passions. It is rare to find an estate undisturbed for a century waiting to be discovered to reveal the remnants of a bygone era. The promise that one is yet to come compels me on. I received a promising call and wondered if this was it!
When the call comes to manage a sale of a ninety-something old woman who has passed, the heart of the sale manager stirs. Images crowd my mind as I set out to visit the house. We collectors and dealers alike are all time travelers at heart and most of us are romantics. I headed to my appointed meeting while visions of treasures danced in my head. I imagined a Victorian lace tablecloth and see the table set with ornate butler-polished silver and rows of English puddings. I hear the whispers emanating from the lips of the long-departed, smell the leather -bound books lining the shelves and the sparkling crystal glass which held the after- dinner vestiges of sherry the guests of the period left behind. The romantic in me see the candelabras with small wafts of smoke like floating ghosts after the snuffer has done its work. To think that we can own the very DNA carelessly transferred to a priceless point de Venice dinner napkin leaves the romantic euphoric. We can almost feel the whale bone stays sticking in our sides and compelling us forward. As I draw closer to the old house, I think I can see the one- hundred-year-old gown that waits breathlessly by the upstairs window for a special beau or perhaps rests on a dress form giving a tacit nod to romance. That visual piece of poetic gossamer only floats on the dress form now and haunts our dreams.
My musings end abruptly as I am jolted back to the 21st century realities and at last come to a stop at the old house. I enter the hallway and am met with a blast of cold air and an even colder reality. Piles of discarded items are strewn around the rooms. An overburdened wing chair waits nearby the carefully laid fireplace for the spirits of Christmas Eve. The visions that I enjoyed on the way are quickly dissolved as the rooms reveal discarded contents of the house spilling over every surface. Everywhere is evidence of decay and careless, disorder and neglect. My better judgement escaped me long enough to accept the assignment.
There was no heat or electricity in the old house. The promise of snow filled the air and inside we shivered as we carved a path through the crowded rooms. The flicker of romance was replaced by a feeling of doom that was only lifted by my partner who climbed on to the highest pile and was beaming with delight at the challenge before us. I was not so much beaming! We labored intensely for days tossing trash out the window to the waiting dumpster below. Before long some semblance of order had been achieved. We got to a bedroom closet and my partner spied small vintage hat boxes at the very bottom. He was overcome with delight as he dove in to liberate them from the closet floor. I know hopes of Victorian cocktail hats floated in his head. What to his wondering eyes did appear when he opened the first box, but the preserved body of a beloved pet cat neatly curled up and frozen in an eternal nap. The box was sealed with cellophane with a prayer neatly tucked on top of the body. Three more boxes yielded other pets similarly preserved with loving prayers....no hats! We moved to another room where rows of jars lined a shelf each with a blob of sorts floating in a putrid green liquid. My imagination ran wild and all romantic notions flung out into the waiting dumpster.
The sale came together in time. The absence of spirit guides left on my own to wonder what the message was for me as I persist in the madness of the occupation I chose. In place of romantic relics from the past, I have been delivered mold, bugs, dismembered dolls, mice droppings, bat poop and the occasional live bat. The existence of a boarded up neatly preserved house holding original contents from a century or two ago, is scarcer than hen's teeth. Although, scientists have found a way to grow teeth in chickens and hens, so it may no longer be true that hen's teeth are scarce just as the virgin estate of an ancient lady may exist somewhere waiting yet to be discovered.
I will give over these musings to my higher self before I visit the present and future as Dickens considered. Perhaps I can conjure some veiled figures for guidance. It may be possible that the fabric of time is all woven together as scientists like Albert Einstein believe and the past, present and future all exist simultaneously...a dizzying notion for sure.
Before leaving the house, I pressed my check against the soiled window pane as evening set in and the snow began to fall. I watched as church-goers created intricately laced patterns in the freshly fallen snow. I imagined the men with top hats and the women in long wool coats and smart hats; their hands snuggly settled into fur muffs and their arms linked to each other in friendship. Time all came together on that magical evening and I left the reality of the moment behind.
I will always be a time traveler in my mind and incurable romantic and I cling to the hope of finding those magical estates that amaze, transport and delight the soul. I shall hope to bring them all to you as my Christmas present neatly wrapped in the time traveler's dream. I may even deliver a smiling hen to you as well! But for now, I wish you find love in the hearts of all you see...It is my holiday wish for thee!
"There is passion for hunting something deeply implanted in the human breast"
Charles Dickens - Oliver Twist