April 30, 1997 in City

Is This Any Way To Treat The Dearly Departed?

Deborah Lapoint Special To Opinion
 

The green clapboard bungalow had become more weathered over the years. On my occasional walks around the neighborhood, I often took notice of this little house, so quiet, seeming almost empty.

I observed the once-white, yellowing trim around the windows and thought this place could become charming with a coat of paint and a little clearing of the debris lying around the yard. I never saw the resident; I knew the house was occupied only because the view through the dust-laden window revealed an ever-changing display of clutter upon a table top.

One day as I tried to turn down Syringa Avenue, I was slowed by bumperto-bumper automobiles for two blocks. An estate sale planner had posted signs pointing the way to the little green house. I pulled into a space just vacated, got out of my car and walked, curiously but somewhat uneasily, toward the house.

I never had been to an estate sale before and was unprepared for what I encountered inside. I’ve seen yard sales, garage sales and tag sales, but this sale was different.

Like vultures swarming to pick the remains from a drying carcass, strangers to the deceased pushed through every room, pawing and picking up the possessions of the home’s former mistress. A few curios were eye-catching, such as a collection of Japanese netsuke figurines. But most items seemed homely and unpretentious, the simple basic things that surround us through our days. Tarnished cookware, worn bedding, even half-used perfumes, each given a value, each judged worthy or not by us.

A tentative and perverse curiosity drew me from room to room. I quickly threaded through the crowded bedroom and the bath, up the precarious stairs to the cramped attic, where buyers considered uses for the dead woman’s Christmas decorations. I suddenly felt a pervasive wrongness and ran down the stairway and out the door.

My chest tightened with a coldness as I recalled the estate sale planner’s indifferent laughter as he had haggled with chatty voyeur-vultures over the deceased woman’s possessions. The event was a carnival, a bit of entertainment. And of course, it was business for the planner and the heirs.

The house had a price tag, too, and I’ve noticed that it already wears that new coat of paint. Now, when I go by on my walks, I’m afraid I know more about this bungalow than I have a right to.

MEMO: “Your turn” is a feature of the Wednesday and Saturday Opinion pages. To submit a “Your turn” column for consideration, contact Rebecca Nappi at 459-5496 or Doug Floyd at 459-5466 or write “Your turn,” The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane 99210-1615.

“Your turn” is a feature of the Wednesday and Saturday Opinion pages. To submit a “Your turn” column for consideration, contact Rebecca Nappi at 459-5496 or Doug Floyd at 459-5466 or write “Your turn,” The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane 99210-1615.


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