Something you may not know about me is that I have a deep appreciation of the past. Not so much history, because I’m lacking in that department and desperately trying to make up for in my grown-up years. It’s more of an appreciation of personal history.
I’ve always been fascinated by old photographs and old homes and old artifacts for lack of a better term. I’ve had a lot of exposure to them too since I spent plenty of time in thrift stores and at yard sales while growing up (some of it out of necessity and some of it out of curiosity). It was in these places that I learned so much about our culture simply by what was left behind. I even spent an entire summer helping to liquidate an estate, sifting through the remains of someone’s life, and saving a few of those pieces for myself (some of which I still have today).
I’ve recently subscribed to an email service that tells me weekly of estate sales in the area. I browse through the pictures of what’s being sold. Often it swings in one of two directions: priceless antiques or complete junk. But when a “mid-century time capsule” description passed through my inbox, I thought it might be time to scout things out in person.
Late on a Sunday afternoon, I ventured out to this beautiful little single level home that sits on a small pond not too far from my home. It’s not on the market yet but I anticipate this home, on this property, in this area, will easily fetch over $800k. But the real value of the home is that life that was lived inside.
When you head to an estate sale, you know that the owner of the estate has either gone on to care facility or on to someplace more permanent. But you don’t really know much else. Even though I arrived at the last hour of the two day sale, I walked in and immediately got a sense of who the owner was.
She was a elderly woman by the name of Marjorie or something a bit regal sounding like that. Back in the day, Marjorie and her husband loved to entertain. They had sets of formal silverware and crystal, some of which was probably inherited from their parents. When they set out the silver platters, they’d make sure everyone had a martini in their hand while they spun the latest easy listening records.
They didn’t like formal dinners but instead preferred cocktails and hors d’oevres with their many guests. After the conversations started to die down, they’d invite their guests out onto the enclosed patio where they’d open their cigarette cases and watch the geese out back on the water.
Marjorie was a wonderful entertainer who knew how to dress and act the part. She was never in doubt of the right outfit to wear and never got rid of a single item of clothing. She believed in buying quality, knowing that it would last a lifetime.
She was always elegantly dressed in the latest style, like this Danish wool pantsuit, even when some women thought skirts might be more appropriate.
Marjorie didn’t forget the all-important rule, though, of always having the right pair of heels to wear. In fact, there isn’t a color of shoe that she didn’t own. The right shoe for the right outfit was a must.
But Marjorie wasn’t just about fashion and entertaining. She was also a mother as well. There was the room for the boys decorated in traditional colonial style. Her boys loved sports and Scouts and Hardy Boys mysteries.
She celebrated her daughters as well. She taught them how to curl their hair and apply makeup at their vanities but she still appreciated that they displayed all of the dolls that their father brought them back from his travels.
And even though she grew up in a time when men and women had very traditional roles, she sensed that times were changing and encouraged all of her children to be exactly who they wanted to be.
I can’t say how much of any of that story is true. But it was clear that Marjorie, or whatever her name was, lived her life elegantly. She was clearly a widow and had been for some time (no men’s items were present at all). And her home truly was a time capsule that seemed to freeze her life sometime in the early 1960s.
The next homeowner will soon come once all of the belongings are long gone. They’ll rip out what looks like original appliances. They install their granite and stainless. They pull up the wall-to-wall carpeting to reveal gorgeous hardwood floors underneath that only need a light sanding. They refinished the basement. They’ll bring in a landscaper. They make it their own home. And in 50 years or so, the cycle will repeat itself all over again.
Until that time comes, I’m so glad that I had a chance to walk through this home and give me a glimpse into a life I’ll never know. And it made me stop and think. What would a sale of my estate reveal about my life?