This is a re-post from August 2009. I felt this was a good one to read again!
When The Sun Sets
Today they had an auction sale at the home that sits catty-cornered from my home. I could hear the auctioneer rattling off his song, selling all those life time collections of things that my late neighbor had amassed.
I felt sad, yet I did not even know her name, and I had lived in this home for six years. I started planting morning glories at my mail box the first year that I had moved here. A few years ago I notice she too started planting morning glories. I often thought that perhaps she so enjoyed seeing my pretty blue blooms embracing my rural mailbox, that she wanted to see them entwining her mail box too.
Occasionally, I would see this elderly lady watering her morning glories, and other annuals she would have planted around her yard. Yet, I did not notice that she no longer was there, until I saw a household auction sign in her front yard.
All those nic-nacks, kitchen gadgets, furniture, car, and real estate were all sold in a few hours. People came from all over, and cars were parked all the way up and down the road we live on. All of those favorite gifts from birthdays, Mother's Days, Christmas, and anniversaries were bought by strangers. All of her memories were sold in a few hours.
I often joke, "When I die, I will leave behind exactly what Howard Hughes left behind, everything!"
Perhaps it is my age showing, but this auction sale today was disturbing to me. I felt like an entire life was being sold on that corner of a rural road in Berks County, PA. We are so connected to the material things of our lives, because many of them have other meanings. A plate from a fun trip to the Bahamas, or a trivet from the Poconos, while others are gifts from loved ones who have passed on. Each has a special memory that will die when that stranger purchased it from that auction sale.
It is my desire that my family and friends will want my things, and the memories that go with them. I do not wish to have them sold off at an auction sale. I would like someone to look at my mantle and remember how I always wanted a mantle like this, how my friend John who happens to be an auctioneer, gave it to me, and how my husband Roger refinished it. My ten year old granddaughter Emily loves a seashell that is on that mantle, and it was given to me by my late dear friend and former neighbor, Dorothy Burke. It will be Emily's possession someday, and she can pass it on to one of her children, or grandchildren.
I had worked at a welfare board in the nineties, and was a typist for the unit that placed seniors in nursing homes. It always disturbed me to see their case folder, with pictures of their home, real estate appraisals on that home, pension, and life insurance values within. I would see that they worked in New York City at prestigious firms when they were young. They did everything expected of them, earning a good living, buying that cute home in the country, insuring that they had a policy to cover burial expenses. Now it was all up for grabs by the nursing home that would act as a penitentiary, a place to do penance for growing too old to take care of oneself until that day when you pass away. In my mind this just never seemed right or fair.
To quote Abraham Lincoln, "And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."