Families that Discuss together, stay together

Families that Discuss together, stay together
Families that Discuss together, stay together

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Sale

 (A Short Story)
Through the years the children gathered together at the woman’s home to share mealtimes and memories. With deep affection and fondness, the woman loved to tell stories of her growing up years in Illinois. She and her husband grew up in the same town, fell in love and moved away from all they loved so dear. Nevertheless, they brought with them beautiful family antiques and heirlooms with which to garnish their home and recollect their heritage. The children and grandchildren grew to love and appreciate the family heirlooms as they provided a bond to the deceased and a link to their history and culture.
            Almost every holiday the family would assemble at Charlotte’s house, for that was the woman’s name, and she would gather the grandchildren around her and point to an item and in the most inviting tone, would tell the story about how she obtained it. The wooden kitchen hutch with the special drawers for sugar and flour came from a garage sale over fifty years past and cost only a dollar. It was in excellent condition and served as an entryway piece to display desktop photos, books and little trinkets set upon its upper shelves. There was an antique washstand made of solid oak with perfectly dovetailed drawers and with a raised towel bar. It seemed always the perfect support for any number of beautifully made silk arrangements her husband, George, had given to her for a birthday or anniversary. An old favorite of the young children was an antique coffee tin with an intricate turquoise and brass design. It was shiny and lightweight and if they were careful, Grandma Charlotte would let them turn it about in their hands. It came from her Auntie who married, and had one beautiful baby girl that, to everyone’s dismay, passed away before she turned eight. There were a number of rare and antique picture frames gilded in gold with pictures of great grandparents, great aunts and uncles. One of them framed her favorite US president, Abraham Lincoln. She endeared her offspring to him as she told the stories she learned as a child. Many other items graced her home and many more stories were told over the years.
            Charlotte aged and one day it was time to sell the large house and large yard. It was too much to take care of. It was time to downsize.
            Years ago she had dreamed of retiring to a comfortable home free from debt and surrounding herself with the most important thing in her life—her family. Times were harder now. When the economy turned several years before, she was left with more debt than with which she was comfortable. Insecurity clouded her mind with images of vague financial troubles, clouds of fuzzy mental pictures with jumbled up words like debt, needs, wants, broke, fear. She couldn’t make sense of the words, but knew they meant danger. It wasn’t in her nature to calmly ponder over the facts and put them in order. In times like these she was prone to emotion, not reason.
Her one clear thought was, “The more I can sell of my valuables the more money I could gain.” With a shake of her head she thought, “A garage sale would attract the wrong crowd.” On the other hand an estate sale would bring the highest prices. An estate sale would be just the ticket. Because she had always been thrifty, rather than pay a professional estate sale company, Charlotte chose to take on the management of the estate sale herself. Stubborn was she and nothing seemed to get in the way of her purpose.
When they heard about Charlotte’s plan, the children stood stunned. Some could not brace themselves and slowly turned away for the nearest chair and plopped down upon it. Naturally, they thought the special heirlooms and antiques would be handed down to them and their children. No feeling of greed or selfishness plagued them, but they were wracked with a sort of longing. A yearning burned within them to continue the stories and to admire the beauty and special meaning of each separate artifact. The relics represented a connection and bond to Charlotte and her heritage. Charlotte sensed their reluctance, but in her desperation to recover her financial state she seemed to careen over their objections.
Charlotte furled her brows with incredulity, “Well, in this predicament, wouldn’t you do the same thing?”
In great earnestness, a daughter-in-law pleaded, “Some of these things are dear to me, they mean so much, they epitomize your life and our heritage!”
With renewed strength and confidence, Charlotte raised her eyebrows and lightened up her visage, “You can purchase similar items, Eliza, like that antique washstand, online. And they really aren’t as expensive as you think.”
Moving forward and sitting on the edge of her chair and with a soft strained voice, Eliza declared, “But I feel connected to these pieces!”
Shaking her head and pursing her lips, Charlotte drawled, “Well, you would be surprised at what you can find online now-a-days.”
She droned on in her single-minded purpose while her children listened on. The children sunk back heavily into their chairs in shock, each of their minds grappling, yet failing for the words to express their desires.
Charlotte became grouchy and short—commanding and firm and closed to any suggestions from the others in the room. It was uncommon for her to be like this. Notwithstanding, her breathing quickened. Fear and agitation came out in the form of words, “If I don’t sell these things are you going to support me?” It was the kind of question crafted to barb, not to kindly inquire. The children sensed her stubbornness and, not being accustomed to it, did not know what to think. Hopeless, the children hugged their mother and said their goodbyes and left at the selfsame hour realizing their desires would not be heard.
When it was time to prepare for the sale, the children had softened and in an effort to love and serve, rather than visibly suffer for their loss, they volunteered their strength to move the heavy items and their talents to price and sell the treasures. Their actions proved to be a godsend and Charlotte gracefully and gratefully accepted their offerings.
The first day of the sale went smoothly and for Charlotte, rapidly. For the children who remained to work the cashbox, it went dismally slow. As each item sold they engaged in a terrible inner struggle between loving and respecting their mother and parting with the treasured would-be heirlooms. The bulk of the buyers came that day and the bulk of the small and less important things were sold, plus some of the longed-for antique frames.
The next day was the hardest. Curious faces came in through the door; some were looking for the perfect piece of furniture for their homes and some were just browsing. First went the oaken washstand, then the wooden kitchen hutch with the flour and sugar drawers, then the silk arrangements, then the coffee tin, more antique frames, even the one with the etching of Abraham Lincoln. Happy and satisfied faces went out through the door. What remained that day were many loose and unwanted items that usually sell to a different crowd who would come the last day of sale.
When the sale was over and her children had helped to tidy up the leftover mess, they left and returned to their homes and families. They were satisfied with their attitudes and the help they rendered and satisfied that their mother had had a successful sale. Charlotte thanked them and watched them leave. She watched them get into their cars. She watched as each car drove down the winding avenue until each had disappeared. She stood at the window watching. Suddenly she was bogged down with fatigue. She sat on her favorite wingback in her room and cried. Cried and cried. Why the emotion and tears? She didn’t know. The last time she checked she had earned enough money—what she had hoped for—more than four thousand dollars. Four thousand dollars…four thousand dollars…shouldn’t she be happy? She had reached her goal! Somewhere deep in her mind a thought was bobbing in and out. It was a vague thought, but a strong one. It seemed to vie for attention. The woman closed her eyes and tried to formulate it. She fidgeted in her chair and cried some more. Her neck seemed weakened from the emotion and could hardly hold up her heavy head. She let it drop back onto the lime green wingback. She let her head swing from one side to another in agony. What was happening to her, she wondered. What was she missing? She had what she had hoped for, but why was she in despair? She searched longingly to find solace in the familiar surroundings she had always known, but somehow it seemed empty. Charlotte could not think clearly and she cried herself to sleep.
Meanwhile, each of her children wondered and marveled in their minds as they drove home. Each knew that material things were not as important as the real things—real things being God, family, and friendships. But they also knew that material things are a beautiful way to express the real things. Each one came to the conclusion that day after the sale that they would always try to be cautious of their motives as fallacious motives may crowd out the most important things that constitute the greatest happiness. The sale meant something deep for them that day. The sale meant selling the connections to family, both the living and the dead.

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