Thursday, October 11, 2012

Gems in the rough

Last Friday I came home from like usual, to my wife and son were playing in the yard while waiting for me to pull up on my bike.  We continued to let our boy explore nature for a few minutes, and as he played in the grass my wife told me about an estate sale she had seen that afternoon while pushing the stroller around the neighborhood.  We have always been fond of garage/lawn/yard/estate sales, but the latter generally have the highest potential for finding some sweet deals (case in point: the mint-condition shop vac I snagged three years ago at an estate sale for $15).  We decided to hold off on dinner for a little while and take a stroll to the neighbor's house a few blocks down to see if we might strike it lucky at this sale.

Once we got to the sale we found all the usual trappings and flotsam that such things usually entail: clothes, kitchenware, tools, old electronics, and of course a room full of knicknacks.  It was fun to browse around and talk to the son of the owner about the house, which is slated to go up for sale in a few weeks.  Clearly he was fond of the place, but also seemed like they were glad to be selling it and moving into a retirement home.  While browsing through a collection of odds and ends in one of the back rooms, my wife stumbled across a few paintings she really liked, such as this one:

(blurry picture taken on my old cell fone)
She's a big fan of wall art, specifically nature scenes like this, and was delighted to find some paintings in really good shape that we could take home and hang up.  There were a couple dozen paintings like this around the house, all for sale, and while they might not have been Rembrandts they were certainly worth buying for about $20 each.

The second painting we found.

The really cool part, though, was when we got to talking with the mother of the guy from earlier.  Turns out she and her husband were selling the place and decades of their own personal possessions in order to move to an assisted living facility nearby.  The woman, named Virginia, took up painting at a hobby several years ago and created all the works we were seeing throughout the house.  It was an impressive display of artistic talent, and we were thrilled to get to meet the lady who had painted these works of art.  She humbly dismissed virtually all our praise, even suggesting at one point that we might want to whitewash one of the paintings because it wasn't very good, but at least we would get a decent frame out of the purchase.  We told her that such a concept was rubbish, and we were pleased as punch to be able to buy these paintings and put them on our walls at home.  She smiled kindly, and we walked home with two paintings along with a stud finder, a fertilizer spreader, and some fabric.  Yay for estate sales!
Another day, another painting
The next day we went back to see if any of the paintings were still available, and sure enough there was a handful left.  We picked up this winter cabin scene and again passed some time just visiting with Virginia and her other family members who were there to help out with the sale.  Soon we went home with a third painting, thinking about where we might want to put it.  But that's not where things stopped.  On Sunday we went back one last time, and picked up this gem:

Through all this, Virginia was just pleased that people were buying her paintings and happy that we came by with our 15-month-old son to see their sale and visit with her and her family.  Through it all I got the distinct impression that this couple had lived life on their own terms, doing what they wanted and finding ways to be happy despite what circumstances befell them.  Even as they watched their history get tagged and sold and carted out the door, they were happy.  Through our talks we discovered that they were moving to an assisted living facility not out of resignation or poor health, but simply because they wanted to live life on their own terms.  They did not need trinkets or tools or couches or fancy decorations to give their lives purpose and meaning.  Just each other.  I hope when these paintings adorn our walls we will appreciate them, but remember that in the end they too will pass away.  And after all is gone it is the relationships that matter, and not the memories but the people with whom they were created.

1 comment:

Julie said...

I love this story. And the paintings are nice too. :)