My husband and I visited an estate sale recently. Upon entering the house, a row of mink coats in various colors and lengths hung on a rack. Bob and I exchanged glances.
These people were moneyed. She probably wore these before the prevalence of PETA either would have made her aware or feel pressured. The furniture surrounding us still looked vibrant and well-made; nothing thrift-shop or hand-me-down here. The living room chairs matched the couch; the dining room set’s rich, dark wood under a sparkling chandelier made me feel like I should change from shorts into more formal wear.
A flashback image of my parents’ own living room hit me. Their couch had survived an entire lifetime; when the springs finally gave out my mother had it redone rather than “waste it” and buy a new one. My parents never had a dining room; we ate our meals in the kitchen. Our table’s base came from a farm auction, where my mom bid a dollar or two on it, and then my dad attached one of his own tabletops. The chairs never matched. But they worked just fine.
Back at the estate sale, we moved into the bedroom where we saw saint statues decorating the dresser; religious icons hung from the walls.
“Where is Bill?” asked a voice in the hall.
“In the Jesus room,” answered another.
Everyone around us laughed. I examined the prayerful items and found a treasure for myself – a saint that would join my altar in my office.
In another room, the woman’s jewelry displayed good taste. I’m sure her good jewelry stayed with the family. But the costume jewels were still lovely and fun. The guest room bed was covered with the most beautiful stacks of sheets I’ve ever seen. How many pairs? Too many to count. Unfortunately, none the right size for us. But gorgeous, all the same.
“She had great taste,” I tell the young woman in the room.
“Has,” she said. “She’s just moved to assisted-living.”
“Good. Make sure she knows what lovely items she has and what joy they will now bring to others.”
Bob flipped through the record collection in another room. “They loved opera,” he said.
I bought a baking sheet, the best I now own, for $1.00. Somehow, the biscuits I made that night, tasted better than before.
- You can gather a person’s life by the objects they own. What does your character have in her house? What do you see when you enter? What collection does she own? What is in her closet? What type of music does she listen to? Books does she read?
- Find a picture in a magazine or newspaper of an object. Choose the first one you see. Write about its owner. Who is he? What is he like? Does he enjoy this object? How does he use this? When? Write a scene with the person and the object.
- What does your character have on his/her night table? Dresser? Desk?
- There is a fire in your main character’s house. He/she has time to grab ONE object. The most important one. What is that object? Why is it so important? Write about the character’s history with this object.