Yesterday the weather was gloomy. Allan noticed that the neighbors, or rather the neighbors’ adult children, were having an estate sale as their home recently sold. Jim and Nida lived directly across the street from us since we moved here over seven years ago. We’d see them out in the yard or at neighborhood Christmas parties. Jim likes to talk and is very friendly. He always liked to see the kids. Now in their eighties, their health is not what it once was so they moved out of state to be closer to their children. Jim used to tell us that they moved to Albuquerque to be near their children, but then their children moved away to several different states. He would often drive to see them and their many grandchildren.
We made a quick stop at the estate sale. Estate sales are so interesting to me. You see all of someone’s stuff laid out. It makes me imagine what an estate sale would look like at our house. Our neighbors had lots of holiday decorations. For every holiday they would put up a different wreath, flag and doormat. They also had a lot of Americana décor. I wanted to buy something, to represent these nice people, but I didn’t know what to get. In the end, I picked up a couple of Barbie outfits from 1999 still mint on card for Cyan for a buck. One of their sons commented on what a big spender I was. I imagined that Nida bought those for one of her granddaughters.
As I browsed through the goods, I talked to another neighbor. I had overheard one of the kids telling her that the new owner is a single man. I’d hoped it would be a family with kids. Oh well.
Today the weather is sunny and clear. I can hear the hustle and bustle of moving and more people visiting the sale outside my office window. It also got me thinking about a package I have on its way from my cousin Erika. She is a photography professor and she published a book on this exact topic titled, Changing Hands. I’ve included the summary and photo from Amazon. Hope she doesn’t mind.
The photographs in the Changing Hands series are about objects for sale, spaces they are located in, and the people the items once belonged to. The objects that loved ones once cherished are no longer useful or desirable to the family. The family members then hire a company to organize an estate sale. During the sale, the home is transformed into a store and items are staged and marketed for the customers. The items and belongings are now detached, waiting for new owners. I see the personal items as substitutes for the people they once belonged to and document them before they are sold.
The line about seeing personal items as substitutes for the people they once belonged to, that’s what I was thinking about as I walked through their home. Visiting someone’s home when they live there is different. When you see all of someone’s stuff all together for the purpose of getting rid of as much of it as you can, it seems very vulnerable and exposed. I’ve always thought we have too much stuff and by we, I mean my family and Americans in general. Like why do we need it? That’s a question for another day. On the other hand, our stuff can sometimes tell stories.
We will miss Jim and Nida, but I imagine it’s best to be close to your loved ones in the twilight of your life. Farewell, good neighbors.