Lesson in the dismantling of a lifetime

Published 2:56pm Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Overgrown lantana doesn’t hide the fact that this was once a yard tended by someone who knew her way around an azalea. Neither can a “sale pending” sign sitting square in the middle of its centipede. I take note of these facts as I make my way up the front walk at what is for me an uncharacteristically early hour to be out and about. Amazing what an estate sale ad can make you do.

I’m hardly through the front door, though, before I see I’ve been misled. That “no early sales” admonition they printed? Not true, as the antique mahogany sideboard labeled “sold” testifies from a corner, echoed by the cement planters on the patio and a twin headboard in a back bedroom.

Oh, well, there’s plenty more to rummage through.

So I join the other plunderers and am quickly reminded that old has a certain, though undefinable, smell. It’s pungent over there where a woman is going through a box of fitted sheets. It’s wafting up thick from a stack of Perry Como albums.

Old also has a look, as evidenced in the home’s pink ceramic tile and a kitchen outfitted when tomato aspic was all the rage.

But it’s a rusty tea cart that catches my attention. I’m examining it when I overhear the lady with the cashbox tell someone that yes, her mother knew they were selling the house, “but she didn’t know about this.”

I think of her mother and picture a face lined deep with days, frowning over folks pilfering through her coffee cups and the price put on her bundt pan. That’s because an estate sale, however necessary, is actually the dismantling of a lifetime. Nothing is sacred. It’s a home soil invasion.

And for the kids left to clean up after the decades, an estate sale is ground zero. I am told that memories threaten to detonate at every turn, even under a couch cushion where a photo from Easter 1973 was stashed. Those left behind (the ones with the cash boxes) must carefully avoid sinkholes of sentiment, looking the other way as their father’s favorite Florsheims go for 50 cents.

I do my part, not by investing in the $600 set of china, but by buying a dusty box of canning jars. I’m leaving with my find when I notice another customer chatting with the seller. “He’s not garage sale savvy,” the woman laughs, pointing to her husband. “He thinks he can put a lamp shade in our truck bed.”

And she doesn’t know the difference between a garage sale and an estate sale, I think to myself. That one is about cleaning out, and the other – the one involving her new lamp – is about clearing out.

By 8 a.m., the house is nearly emptied, leaving nothing much behind except naked curtain rods and hard questions. What can withstand time? Fostoria glassware? Craftsman tools?

Passing by the overgrown lantana on the way back to my car, I wonder just what to make of it all.

It’s seems early in the day for a lesson, but I’ve had one none the less. That’s because a morning at an estate sale gives powerful proof to what the Bible has always said plain: We bring nothing into the world, and we’ll take nothing from it.

I’ll try to remember that the next time I think I need more jars.

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.