My wife and I have started frequenting estate sales.
She enjoys inspecting houses’ insides, and there are
often bargain buys that beggar belief, which spells
a successful outing for me. Granted it feels bizarre
to pick through the lifetime’s accumulation of
material possessions of someone now deceased,
but the pragmatist inside me says one must shove
aside all sentimentality. The past owner, now at peace,
no longer has feeling for the pieces, rendered mere objects,
and everyone knows objects have no feelings, no memory.
At a recent sale I picked up a small picture, all aspects
of which were created by painstakingly gluing myriad tiny
crystals of colored stones to depict a vase containing multihued
flowers. On the back of the wooden frame painted gold
was written “Italy, Summer of 1960”. At $30 I viewed
this as quite a find. Now mine, the poet in me would like told
whatever tale there is to tell…but alas, the picture cannot speak.
This icon of a stranger’s life now adorns my hallway’s wall…
…a far cry from the place of honor in which it resided until weeks
ago. Unbeknownst to me, this was treasured by its owner above all.
Monks made this micro-mosaic masterpiece with loving care,
then offered it for sale in the St. Paul’s Cathedral gift shop,
where a young co-ed on a college choir tour saw it there.
It spoke to her; she would have it. Then the price made her stop.
Reluctantly, she hesitantly replaced it on its shelf for display,
tears filling her eyes as she turned away. Having returned to
Shreveport, she thought of it for weeks, until on her birthday
a shy freshman after choir practice said, “I have a gift for you.”
Her surprise at his giving her a gift soon turned into amazement.
“When did… How did you know?” “I saw it touched your heart
that day in Rome. I went back the next day. I hoped my payment
for something you loved would turn out a good move on my part.
“Juniors don’t give much notice to freshmen, but I want for you
to notice me.” Thus began a love that would burn passionately
for over forty years. They dated. They fell in love. They said “I do!”
This diminutive picture came to symbolize their love eventually.
Standing on her dressing table for four decades, every day
this mosaic was blown a kiss, “That’s for you, my sweet dear,”
as she’d recall his having lived all week on bread, water to pay
for this for her back then. Her ritual produced a smile and a tear.
In 2001 her darling husband died from an unexpected heart attack.
She sat for hours in her rocking chair, holding this Roman memento
next to her heart, grieving she’d lost her love, never to have him back.
This little mosaic embodied her marriage with the man she loved so.
Of the love and tears it engendered in the past, it has no memory at all.
Yet I find it saddens me this picture hangs unloved, unnoticed in my hall…