I’m amazed, and saddened, by the things people leave behind when they move. I hate — really hate — to move, but when I do, I leave the place spotless. As in, every cabinet is empty, every closet is empty, not even a cobweb stays when I go. I never knew how bad it was until my father-in-law took on a late life hobby/career known as house-flipping. When people move at the behest of an eviction notice, the “stuff” left in their wake is mind-boggling. Pianos, waterbeds, every as-seen-on-TV product known to man, electronics, clothes, tools, you name it and it’s abandoned. This conspicuous overconsumption must have contributed to losing their home — seems logical, doesn’t it?
Our little farm didn’t come to us via foreclosure. Instead, it was the product of an auction — and auctioneers don’t haul away the detritus left behind, folks! We became the proud owners of anything that didn’t sell, and/or that sold but wasn’t wanted by the buyers. Who in the world would buy something, then leave it behind, you say? These are usually the product of what’s known in the auction world as a “box lot”. You know, those cardboard boxes lined up on tables containing one thing you want, and ten that you don’t — lots of people leave those ten unwanted purchases behind for the new owners to clean up.
Our first major order of business was to get rid of all the unsold and/or unwanted things left in the cottage. It turned out the attic hadn’t been touched; we hired our niece and nephew to climb the rickety pulldown stairs and heave everything down. Croquet set missing a few important pieces, anyone? How about moldering old (fake) furs and suits of an indeterminate vintage? Goodwill, here we come! Then it was on to the closets, and the laundry room, and the garage — stacks of old National Geographics, odds and ends dishware and kitchen gadgets, 15-year-old wall calendars and more. Add all that to the piles the auction attendees left behind and you’ve got several truckloads of junk to haul away before the real demolition can begin.
Did we find any treasure in all the trash? Nothing much; a couple of vintage posters, a drinking glass from an iconic local pizza parlor, two small Christmas ornaments that had fallen into the cracks in a closet, several bud vases with long-dried flowers still in them. But there was one very unique item:
It’s a gorgeous piece of needlework in a homemade frame that’s about three feet square. The colors are interesting, and the peaceful forest scene is charming. It’s beautifully stitched (I did quite a bit of needlework back in my crafting days; enough to recognize quality work when I see it) on a slubby linen fabric.
Some back story on our farm is in order here: It was owned by a couple who had one child, a daughter, who was roughly my age. She was in college at the same time I was, and I knew her peripherally through 4-H events when we were both in high school in our neighboring counties. I didn’t know until we became interested in the property that she’d passed away; I saw a memorial bridge sign with her name on it when we went through one of the barns. I spoke with her mother about it on auction day, to let her know I’d been acquainted with her daughter and was so very sorry for her loss. She told me her girl was killed in a car accident not far from her home in Texas back in the early ’90’s; she’d married a man she met while she was away in veterinary school and moved there with him. This piece was crafted by the daughter, as evidenced by her initials on the last photo below. She finished it when we would have been juniors in college — she must have lived at home with her parents during her undergraduate days. It was used to give her room a measure of privacy from the adjacent sun porch. I don’t know why her mother left it behind, still covering the upper portion of the window in that small bedroom. Maybe the colors didn’t suit her new home, or she had too many other things to take with her. Whatever the reason, I’m glad she did. I’m going to reframe it and give it a special place in the cottage. I like to think the girl who stitched it with loving care, and a great deal of talent, 30-plus years ago would be pleased.