|Farley the orangutan: the only creature at the zoo sadder looking than I.|
By Friday, I'd been sick for five days and on antibiotics for three. The little kids and I were all a bit stir crazy, so I decided a zoo day would be just the thing. Only it wasn't (just the thing), and--even though we did the bare minimum in terms of walking, by the time we headed home--I could tell my throat and eyes were flaring up.
Not to gross anyone out, but my eyes were matted shut, Saturday morning, which (as it turns out) was only the start of a weird, weird day.
I'd seen an advertisement on Craigslist for an estate sale (somewhat unusual in these parts), and--with or without pink eye--I was determined to check it out. Jim and I loaded all the little kids in the minivan, and Jim drove me to this estate. It was pretty obvious from the get-go: things had been pretty well picked over, and whatever had caught my eye, in the ad, had been long sold.
I peered into the shed and wished for Dad because he would've been able to name the sorts of things I saw, also because he would've undoubtedly been able to use some of them. And although not to the same extent, it was more of the same inside the house; I recognized, for example, a manual meat grinder but saw many items I couldn't name, let alone begin to appraise.
The best way to describe the inside of this house is to say it was very much like the inside of my shed. There was no air conditioning and, thinking back, there may have been no electricity, at all. Cobwebs. Dirt and trash on the wooden floor like what you get after with a push broom. I stepped over and around broken typewriters and box after box of photos and slides. One room seemed dedicated almost entirely to old magazines.
While I was in the kitchen of this house, another woman stepped in and asked: "Isn't this just so sad? How did he live this way? It's so hot in here, so dirty. They were saying they've already filled a dumpster, and now look, he's gone, and strangers are going through his stuff. So sad!"
Holding a few (scungy) treasures, I shrugged and said: "I don't know. I think it's kind of cool that his stuff gets a chance to live on, elsewhere."
I decided to brave the attic and climbed a pull-down ladder in the hallway, for access. I stepped into the dark and stifling space. My eyes itched. I coughed and worried (as always) about mice. But there I found what I was after: vintage Christmas.
A few minutes later, the woman running the sale studied all I set before her and said: "$8.00?" (I was giddy for the rest of the day.)
Here's a photo of what I brought home. For $8.00!
The tree was still in its original packaging, and in fact, given the way it was packaged and its pristine condition, I'm pretty sure I was the first person to ever assemble it. I also bought three boxes of vintage ornaments in their original packaging; a flimsy Santa dish; a wooden lazy susan (I want to paint it and use it to play board games with the kids!); a bunch of rusty old keys (for an undetermined project); a painting on canvas (to hang in the dining room); a shrink-wrapped tray table (for the kids to use in the minivan); and a photo in a frame.
I shrugged. "Maybe. Not today."
Jim opened the trunk for me and decided to go have himself a look-see. Yeah, he was gone for about sixty seconds before he slid in the driver's side of the minivan, looked at me, and said: "You're a braver person than I am."
I came home and studied, on Pinterest, lamp shades made from photo slides. I wondered if it were irresponsible to bring home another person's family photos when I haven't done a good job of keeping up with my own. Then I got to cleaning the items I'd brought home from the estate sale and discovered some manner of aggressive, paper-eating bug in all of the original tree and ornament packaging, also inside the picture frame. Yeah, I'm not going back for those photos.
The whole thing makes me think of Matthew 6:19-21: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Jesus's case against hoarding. I'm still regarding my stuff from the estate sale as a gift (even if I had to throw out all that cool packaging).
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I need to tell you about this other thing that happened, Saturday. (I told you it was a weird day.)
It came a gully washer while we were shopping in the Dollar Tree, and when we came out, this woman in the parking lot said: "You've got something on your windshield."
"Thank you," Jim said, and to me: "Greaaaat." (We were thinking the same thing: that someone had probably hit our parked minivan, in the storm.) I watched a puzzled look cross his face as he read the note. Then he handed it to me:
"No," he said.
"I believe you, I guess," I said, "but only because I know you don't get high." And we had a good laugh, but what I didn't say to him is that--somewhere deep in my soul--I was sighing with relief.
Because, Friends, I've had those relationships. I've had substance abusers and unaffectionate, penniless losers. I've had men who penned desperate notes and stuck them on my vehicle. And--maybe worst of all--I've had men who couldn't spell.
I'm smiling, writing this, but in all seriousness, I'm thankful to the Lord that I have so much foolishness behind me: that I'm all grown up and married to a decent, responsible man. And I can't tell you how many times in the past few days that I've prayed for the person who wrote that note...and for the person for whom that note was intended.