The word spread like wildfire to reach people hundreds of miles away. The streets of this little rural town could hardly contain the cars that lined it's curbs. The auctioneer’s voice was getting faster and faster as the price was going up and up. The entire block was littered with the couple’s possessions. Eighty years of memories; eighty years of stories. Stories that will soon be forgotten once the furniture, the knick knacks and dishes are loaded into the trailers.
As I watched, I took in the smells and the sounds. The furniture had a familiar smell, like a cross between a grandmother and a wood shop. People were standing shoulder to shoulder, filling the block in between broken chairs and boxes filled to the brim with old cooking utensils with wooden handles, salt and pepper shakers, and ceramic swans. I could picture a thirty year old woman wandering a flea market, delighted to find another unique ceramic swan. I could almost see her toting her toddlers up and down the booths on a hot summer afternoon. I could picture her at a yard sale in her forties, while her kids waited in the car. I could imagine her vacationing with her husband in her fifties as she picked up another swan in a seaside gift shop. And then I could see her in her sixties on Christmas morning, tearing up as she unwrapped the delicate swan that her excited grandchildren had spent their own money to purchase for her.
Those stories will no longer be told. The swans were being separated. The chairs were being sold without their table. The dressers were riding off in trailers, separate from their matching nightstands. All of these items had once made a home. They were the collection of a husband and a wife who had spent eighty years accumulating each piece that they hand picked. The furniture that lined the street, that people were swarming around like flies, meant so much to a couple who was no longer living.
Their materials remained, when mortality won. All that was left were the wall hangings and and a few power tools. The house was purchased and would soon be filled with a new family and new memories to make. As I watched, I couldn’t help but think about the time and energy and resources spent on all of these things being auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Is it worth it? The money that I spent on a new bedspread? The anger that boiled when my car received it’s first ding? The time it took to wash the chair cushions when my girls left strawberry red finger prints on them? The hours wasted arguing about buying this or that? The stress over the scuffed floor? The attachment I have to stuff? The obsession I have with things? The addiction I have to material goods that are destined to turn into junk and end up in a landfill?
All of these questions lead me to wonder what story is left when my furniture, my house and my car are stripped away.
Have I lived a story that transcends my possessions?