Going on dates is like celebrating arbor day around here – we don’t do it. A decade ago when our first daughter was born with a life threatening heart defect the idea of getting a sitter and seeing a movie seemed gauche. Life happened, 2 more daughters, work, lack of funds and some interest, anyway. Since we moved here to north central Iowa and don’t know a soul we decided to make a monthly date a priority. This particular date was a day date to pick out stuff for the convent remodel and also a time to celebrate Jim’s birthday.
On the way to the local home improvement store we took a side street, which wasn’t the normal way we would go and there on the lawn of a huge old home was contents of a life a generation ago. We stopped, neither of us had been to or participated in a live estate auction and I wanted to see if there was some stuff I just couldn’t live without that would be perfect in the convent.
First I was struck by the number of people standing around ready to buy “things” and getting caught up in the frenzy of a quick bidding war. Sure we registered to be able to buy but by the time I thought about if I wanted it or not, where I would put it or how much I would spend, the “thing” was long gone, sold and in the possession of a new horder.
Jim and I walked around the property imagining what it was like when the carriage house had horses in it, a staff, children running around and a different landscape. Apparently the owner was a judge and his 2 sons, attorneys in Fort Dodge. The folks had passed, the sons now living on both coasts, neither wanted the house or its contents. Now bargain hunters are scavenging through old mementos
As I saw their “fine” things laid out on the lawn, I got a sense of sadness, wastefulness and unnecessary opulence. Dusty old lamps that are too fancy, the mom’s wedding dress, marriage certificate and photo. A tux and tails, appointment book from almost 100 years ago with things written in there such as, ‘church social, dinner and dancing at the Dencklaus. Numerous trunks that aren’t just for storage and design but for sea travel. Two dark wood, finely crafted twin beds that once held young growing sons as they slept.
Jim and I went around back where I was interested in seeing the kitchen. With a house this big I thought for sure the kitchen would be inspirational and preserved in time. To my chagrin and limited perspective it was the smallest, poorly lit, non functional room. Then I was reminded that their was probably someone trapped in their, hired to make delicious from scratch meals that where then carried out and served to the family in a huge dining room that had not one but two fireplaces. The house smelled like must, mothballs and coal.
Rumor has it that an engineer from out-of-state is moving his family and 6 children there and will be living in it while they remodel the place. Even though I like “stuff” and vintage things and fantasizing about mid century life and times. I realized that it’s all just stuff and when your gone, which happens, our time here is so short. All the stuff that seems so important will be on a lawn, in the trash, shipped overseas or disintegrating and forgotten.
I tried really hard to be present at lunch with Jim this day, listening and investing in my conversation with him and not focused on what we needed to buy. After all, it’s just stuff.