Dreams really do come true. Keep dreaming!
If you’re like me, the place you call home has an assortment of furniture and knickknacks and stuff in every room. Most of these things were carefully chosen by us for a specific reason or purpose or just because we like them. They may remind us of a place or time, or they might even come all ready equipped with their own story.
My home happens to bring me much joy and so does a lot of my stuff. Every room has multiple things that make me happy or remind me that I’m exactly where I love being – home sweet home. One of the first things I see each morning as I wake up is a Van Gogh painting of sunflowers that hangs in my bedroom. It’s actually a framed poster I discovered at a garage sale along the lake a handful of summers ago. The seller had about a dozen other beautifully framed posters, all from various Chicago Art Institute Exhibits, and all priced for a fraction of what it had cost to frame them. Though tempted to buy everything she had, it was only the sunflowers that I finally chose to take home.
Last Saturday after deciding to bake something with apples, I pulled my favorite stainless steel pie pan out of the kitchen cupboard and was reminded how I’d purchased it at an estate sale, years ago when my daughter was still at home. This pan has been used so often, I almost can’t remember when it wasn’t a part of my kitchen. And I love it so much that when I saw another one at a garage sale, I quickly scooped it up so that my daughter could have one for her kitchen too.
I happen to love garage and yard sales, where some wonderful one-of-kind surprise waits for a new home – usually something I didn’t even know I needed until I saw it sitting in someone’s garage or yard.
Estate sales on the other hand seem different to me. It’s not just a garage or a yard full of stuff for sale; it’s a basement and a house and a garage filled with someone’s lifetime of stuff. An estate sale generally signals that someone either no longer is able to live in their own home or that someone has died. I usually browse garage sales rather carefree and without much thought to the seller or the reason the item is for sale. At estate sales, I find myself a bit reflective and sometimes even a little sad.
As I try to respectfully maneuver through the remnants of someone’s life, picking through the things that were once loved or used daily, it often makes me wonder about the person who owned them and the lives that they lived. It’s almost like piecing together a puzzle as I notice what might have been favorite recurring colors or fashion styles or treasured mementos. I’ve even felt a certain affinity at times when I’ve seen things that I have in my own home. The artists and writers, the dreamers and stamp collectors, the book lovers and teachers, the homemakers and the fellow bakers that I just never had a chance to meet. And maybe in a small way, I honor them or their memory by giving their things a new home, like my favorite well-used pie pan.
I don’t think I’m alone in every once in a while thinking about all the stuff I will someday leave behind. It reminds me of how my aunt in Ireland had the habit of writing names on the backs of some of her cherished things, the names of who was to get them when she was gone. Generally whenever someone mentioned how much they loved a dish or a painting or a photograph, she would add their name to the back of it. I’ve always thought that it was a profoundly loving and thoughtful gesture.
I’m also reminded of a dream I had sometime after my daughter left for college…
I was sitting on my living room couch and while I knew it was my living room, as I looked around the room the mustard colored walls were strangely bare and everything seemed different. Two men in matching dark blue uniformed shirts were standing on the rug just inside my front door. They appeared to be waiting for someone and they didn’t seem to notice me. I heard footsteps coming from the hallway and turned to see a lovely blonde haired woman who I soon realized was my daughter, only she was middle aged, maybe about my age now. She walked into the living room and said to the men who I now recognized as men from a neighborhood moving company, “All I want are the journals and the books and the photos. All I need, I have right here.” When she spoke the last words, she gently placed the palm of her hand over her heart. At that moment I realized that I had died.
I woke with tears in my eyes and wondered if it was a prophetic dream. Our family has had quite a number of them. So I wouldn’t forget it, I immediately wrote down every detail I could remember. As you might imagine, it took me a while before I shared this dream with my daughter. When I did, we both agreed that those same things she wanted in the dream will probably be the things that will mean the most to her when I’m gone.
Now fast forward to about a week ago, when she and I were having a late night phone conversation. We often laugh that we can talk about everything or nothing, and then every random topic in between. So in typical fashion, I shared what I would not do if I only had one week to live. I would most definitely not use my last seven days on earth sorting through any of my remaining boxes or containers of stuff in the basement. And just so she wouldn’t be mad at me for leaving her boxes to go through when I died, I said (if I had time) I would go to the bank and get a thousand dollars worth of $100 bills. Then I’d hide them in the various boxes and containers so that she wouldn’t throw anything good away and so that as she was sorting she’d also be getting little treats from me. She liked that idea. A lot.
In the same conversation, I also mentioned how even though I like to keep my house ready for company at all times, it was definitely anything but ready for company. I confessed my busy work and life schedule had me behind on all things in the category of chores and cleaning and clutter. I also had laundry waiting and dishes soaking and bills to pay and outside raking to do and…well, you get the idea.
Following my confession, she said what sounded to me like, “Don’t die now.”
Now based on what I had just told her, it made sense. Plus, I thought it was not only a very witty comeback, it was also the perfect reply. If I was to die and leave a mess, she’d be the one to have to clean it up. I burst out laughing and told her I couldn’t believe how funny she was.
There was a brief pause on the other end of the phone and in a somewhat puzzled voice she asked me why I thought what she’d just said was so funny. When I told her that I’d heard her say, don’t die now, she burst out laughing too. She said she really wished she had said it, because it was hilarious. Then she told me what she’d actually said was, don’t I know.
Now I still need to finish some of those same chores I’d listed when talking with my daughter, but I did bake an apple tart. And until the day comes when I do decide to attack those basement containers (I’ll need more than a week), it’s safe to bet they won’t be going anywhere. Oh, don’t I know.