When visiting other people’s homes for estate sales, especially those who have passed away, I create stories about who I think might have lived there. Although I always leave with more questions than answers, I wonder if the people who lived there hear how I admire their belongings and, more importantly, who they were during their life on Earth. After all, most of us are interesting, even if we don’t always feel we are.
So this past weekend, we visited an estate sale. Having probably been built in the 1920s to 1940s, the charming, two-story, red-brick home, would have been considered a mansion during that time. Poverty-stricken, largely ignored homes, cut up into apartments, now surround it. On the second story of a washed-out, grey, wood frame home, a woman tended her laundry hanging out to dry from a droopy clothes line and over the balcony’s edge.
We walked up the cracked, unlevel front steps. Feeling like an intruder, I walked gingerly into what I believed to be the living room: small, wooden floors, white walls, and cozy.
An intricately carved, three-panel wooden screen immediately drew me into a room to the side. I ran my hands over its strong but detailed carvings when, from over my shoulder, a man stuck a hot pink stickie note to its surface with bold, capital letters: “SOLD”.
After admiring it a bit more, we discovered the very tiny kitchen. It had lots of light streaming in through its windows, the walls and cabinets bathed in more white. After scanning some of the items, we decided to venture up the steep, wooden, and crotchety stairs off the kitchen. The width of the stairwell, by today’s measures, was small.
At the top of the stairs, the first room, lined in tall, dark wooden bookshelves, didn’t give an impression of much. Noticing the accordion file folders on the floor, leaning up against the wall like soldiers all in a row, my curiosity drove me to pick one up and look inside.
In those folders lived an artist.