Sunday, February 28, 2016

Beyond the auction

The wagons were full. A house empty. Tables brimming with items. The last night in the house. The final farewell.

We love auctions. We go ready to find a treasure and to face the challenge of bidding. We dig through boxes. Sometimes we find something that reminds us of our youths. Sometimes we laugh at the items people keep. Boxes of pictures tossed randomly aside. Albums pulled apart. Items once treasured are tossed here and there as people rummage through them. There is little thought of those who said farewell.

I am an antique lover, and I love auctions. Not until the auction of our farm did I realize the true depth of what an auction represents. Not until the auction did I realize the finality of it all.

"I wanted to get something that belonged to Willard and Ruth." "I'd love to have your Dad's fishing box." Something for everyone and everyone looking for something yet to be discovered. Each item a memory to the three girls who lived back the lane. A memory of two people no longer in our lives.

I stayed at the farm the night before the auction. Perhaps I needed one more night in this precious home. Perhaps I was saying good-bye to my parents in the last place I had seen them. Maybe I just needed to be wrapped in the nest to preserve the memory as deeply as possible. The rest of the family showed up in the morning. Wagons were pulled into the yard and table set up. Soon the auctioneer arrived as well as the food cart. Friends, relatives, neighbors and the curious soon began to drive up that lane off Neff Road.

People we had not seen in years came to join us in this farewell. "We wanted to see you three girls one more time." They sat in lawn chairs and stood in groups talking. I sat by the old chicken yard with Carl Bucholtz who farmed with Dad for many years. We watched the people with a detachment that separated us who loved the farm from those who couldn't see the memories surrounding us there. As we said farewell to the farm, Carl was facing a fight with cancer that he could not win. We mourned.

Now when I go into an antique store or to an auction, my heart reaches out to those lived with these pieces and left them behind. The sadness with which they were parted is thick around me. The memories that linger wrap around each piece. I cannot purchase any of these things without giving them respect and love.

Yes, they are just things....aren't they? Gifts for special occasions, penny-pinched items, treasures handed down, homemade arts and crafts, treasures. Stories end and new stories taking their place. 

1 comment:

John Lore said...

Beautifully written. But no, they're not just things, but representations of people, or facets of them, of one kind or another. I too am a lover of antiques, but especially old photographs. I try to preserve whatever data they contain, try not to separate photos that belong together by family, because they provide each others' context. They are parts of us in ways.