You can’t take it with you

estate saleI stopped in at an estate sale this morning in one of the larger homes in the neighborhood. Even though I had cleaned out my parents’ four bedroom home and been to many an estate sale, I can truly say I’ve never seen so much stuff in my life!

I was fascinated and appalled all at the same time at the many, many things this family had collected over the years–antique furniture, toys, crystal, a dozen sets of dishes, an entire room of Christmas decorations, jewelry, books, clothes… An over abundance of ‘things’ in every sense of the word. Especially, when I try very hard to minimize and repurpose our belongings on a regular basis.

It also reminded of this little story I wrote a few years ago for the Current’s Flash Fiction feature.


I always knew my son and his family would have no use for my precious mementos after I am gone.  Bric-a-brac, knick-knacks, stuff!

The furniture I inherited from my grandparents–a phone table with a little seat for comfortable chatting, the antique mantle. The beautiful set of china on which my mother served  holiday dinners that shaped generations of family gatherings.  I cherished these and many other family pieces passed down to me.  But, who wants a framed, handmade baby christening gown?

My books are all going for a dollar.  People are rummaging through my clothes and linens–all which are permeated with the odor of stale perfume. Handbags and jewelry, luggage, kitchen appliances… A bowl full of sea shells or a scorched set of cooking pans–not treasures for sure. The estate sellers are doing their job of clearing the house for sale.  But, there’s no one there to tell the stories.

dresden ladiesMany times I tried to tell the story behind the Dresden figurines. The ones in the glass cabinet that I stared at my whole life.  My parents bought those beautiful little ballerinas, with their tutus of delicate porcelain lace, in 1947 from a German family who had to sell their precious keepsakes to feed themselves. But, how could that matter now? Surely someone will see their value and give them a good home, where they can be admired everyday as a beautiful works of art. The finely etched beaten copper table top my father brought back from Pakistan when he served there in the ’50’s. The painting of the two devilish monks my first true love, George, gave me when I was 18 years old.

After the good things go, it looks like the sad remnants of an inconsequential life. I hover over this scene, on my last pass through this world, the memories fade along with the disbursement of my possessions.  And, now I surely know the truth of ‘you can’t take it with you.’


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