Monday, March 1, 2010

Dead peoples' things

Now that is an interesting headline! "County Board plans sewer hike." Heck, anybody can walk in the woods; there's something distinctive about a sewer hike.

Walking among Ms. Carini's things felt distinctive too. Player piano in the downstairs hall, with all the rolls in a big box. One can assume there'd been times when music and laughter filled the big house.

And it is a big house. Three stories, at least 4500 sq. feet of floor space. Lots of cracked plaster up there in the 20 foot ceilings. Look closer, some serious water damage. Where additions join the original structure, that's always the trouble spots in these old homes. House was built before electrification and indoor plumbing; I kept trying to get a sense of the original floor plan, but it's tough.

I usually do pretty good with that sort of thing, but I was distracted. I was distracted 'cause I was in Ms. Carini's house. Yeah, know what the funniest thing is? Walk up to an airport restroom stall, jiggle the handle and you almost always get "Somebody's in here." Oh sure, statistically possible to run up on a randy Senator and get a "Hellloooo Sailor!" but mostly it's "Somebody's in here."

I like that. Something poetic about declarative statements on one's personhood most likely coming when their pants are at ankle position. Well walking among Ms. Carini's things I kept feeling, "Somebody was in here" and it interfered with my legendary cold analytical skills.

Just recent as Christmas an old lady lived here with decades and decades of memories. Upstairs there's a wardrobe with motheaten WW2 uniforms. I imagine many letters were exchanged in those days, many prayers offered. I went through her book collection. Historical romance tripe; I think she stopped reading in the late 1950's.

Trying to get a sense of Ms. Carini was very tough. People came by to check on her, she probably watched TV. Her last years were likely confined to a few downstairs rooms. There were no family photos for sale so I presume there's extended family out there.

Lady who sold me the table (never take your wife to an estate sale) is almost as enigmatic as Ms. Carini. I don't know if she's a trust fund baby or what, but she had an obvious poise about her. At some point she contacted Ms. Carini somehow, and bought house and contents, years in advance of the old girl's passing. Very interesting. Perhaps the money came in handy.

But Ms. Carini, living in that big house where the player piano music still echoed, and brother was overseas fighting the Japs and visitors after Daddy passed was all clear as daylight for her, all at the same time.

I wonder what that was like, being the last living repository of so many memories. I wonder what she liked for breakfast, what she watched on TV, what she enjoyed talking about. Never will know, and I just despise the thought there's stuff I can't ever know.

Walking in her house is the closest I can ever get though. The things, I just don't get a sense that she had much devotion to them really. They were kept as fetishes of the life moments associated with them.

I came home with her bed table (never take your wife to an estate sale, I can't stress that too much) and it's a gaudy, pretty little six-sided thing sat upstairs next to where she slept before the stairs got dangerous and exhausting. Hauling it outside, well that's very likely first time that table's left that room since FDR was in the White House.

That table probably heard her prayers for brother overseas, and a lamp sat on it illuminating her reading of historical romance tripe novels. That table heard her weep when her brother was senselessly murdered in 1985.

So now the table's going to live with me, and the cast of colorful characters God in His/Its wisdom (sense of humor) has ordained I be the somewhat sane center of.

Eh, we'll give the table a good home. It really is an interesting little thing to look at. If my theory that inanimate objects can soak up emotional energy is correct, there's player piano music and the sound of laughter stuck in that old table.

So, what else do I have? Oh yeah! NEVER NEVER take your wife to an estate sale!

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