The things we accumulate through our lives may not be valuable, but the connections that bind them to us make them priceless.
On Saturday morning, with a little free time on our hands, my wife and I attended an estate sale being held in our community. Estate sales are typically held when the occupants of a house have either passed away or moved into a retirement home or smaller home of their own, and need to get rid of all the leftover nick-knacks and doodads they have accumulated.
This particular sale was for the first reason; the previous occupants of the home had gone on and one would assume the family had gone through their possessions and taken anything they viewed as valuable, either monetarily or sentimentally.
We don’t attend estate sales very often. Typically, the “good stuff” is gone by the first day of the sale. But sometimes you may find a little something that you think may look good in your den, or that thing you’ve always wanted one of. True to form, the pickings were slim on the second day, but my wife found a wooden jewelry box she thought our daughter would like to have.
Normally, I am through looking around well before she is. I don’t see a lot of “things that would look good in our den” like she does, and once I have scanned for sports memorabilia and antique tools, I tend to stand in one spot and wonder.
And I always get a little depressed. I mean, many of these are the belongings this couple treasured during their lifetimes. Things they bought together, things that have a special meaning that no one else knows about, and things that they have kept for year after year, even if they had no particular value.
My mind tends to make up stories about an object that catches my eye. Based on not even actually having met the previous owners, I sometimes form an entire back story, that gives these inanimate objects a personal touch.
Things like a coffee mug. Today, it’s just a white ceramic coffee mug, with a painted beach scene and the words Ft. Walton Beach written in script below the image of seashells and starfish. The mug may not have any story about it all. It may have been bought at a different estate sale because the wife thought it would look good in her kitchen window.
But my version is one where the couple spent their honeymoon at Ft. Walton Beach, and this cheap ceramic coffee mug was the first souvenir they bought as a married couple. Perhaps they never told their children of the sentimental significance of the mug. Maybe that’s why it was left behind to be disposed.
And now, the mug will go home with another owner for a dollar or less, and the memories that flooded the senses of the elderly couple each time they saw it sitting in the china cabinet or the kitchen window are lost to time. Just as the last gulp of coffee that was poured out of the mug as they made their way back home to start their new life together.
I know it probably didn’t happen that way at all, but it causes me to think of the things that adorn our cabinets and displays at our own home. Someday, those precious memories will be swept away as well. They have no monetary value, and to anyone other than me and my wife, no sentimental value either. They are just trinkets that made up the story of our lives together. In that respect, many of them are priceless.
I spent a little time looking at those curios this weekend. The kids will keep some of them, but even they won’t understand the value of the object they are holding. They have their own valuable charms that make up their life stories, anyway. Some will wind up in strangers’ homes, and maybe even have a special value to the new owners.
But to me, these seemingly worthless objects are precious memories. And, oh, how they linger!