Apparently, my mom did not communicate to me in drastic enough terms how much GORGEOUS furniture Audrey had in that decrepit old house. She told me there was lots of things I would like, but for some reason it just didn't register. So when I pulled up and saw enough furniture to fill about about a quarter of a football field, I couldn't find a parking place fast enough. Yes, find a parking place.
People come out in droves for auctions. Did you know that? Because had I known that...I would have done some thing differently!
The house was swarming with people. I began looking at the furniture and then I proceeded to wipe the drool off my face. I made a decision right then and there, that I would bid on one thing. I figured a couple hundred dollars would get me a nice piece of furniture. I'd have to scrape that couple hundred dollars together but at least I would have something nice. And, I would have something to always remind me of Audrey.
Because as quirky as Audrey was, my mom and I had grown to love her. It was very obvious how much Audrey loved us. It seemed her body had found a miracle in the time between the congestive heart failure spell and the auction. Her body found a miracle or her heart found a family. I think the latter was true. Audrey had a family now. When we (my mom and dad, me, Paul or Shelby) came around, she would light up. She told us we were her family. All of a sudden she had a reason to live. She was alive and well the day of that auction.
I found her, hugged her and said 'hello' and then I made my way back through the sea of people to look at the furniture. There were end tables, drop leaf tables, a pie safe, 2 hutches, chairs, beds and on and on and on. All the furniture was in mint condition. There were no scratches or missing knobs or rickety furniture. There was only gorgeous cherry furniture, all wood furniture. The kind they don't make anymore. Furniture with tongue and groove drawers (or dovetailed drawers) and square nail heads. One piece of furniture was constructed without any nails. There were tables with the little wheels on the bottom and furniture with circular saw marks (indicating it had been made prior to 1850). It was unbelievable. I set my heart on one of the hutches.
It was time for the auction to begin. All Audrey's old possessions were to the side of the house, toward the back and in front of a detached garage. The auctioneer positioned himself in front of all the people sitting in the chairs and began to auction off a myriad of smaller items. Old Fenton glass, postcards, paper mache pumpkins, dishes, lamps and loads of other nicknacks.
Some of the post cards went for $40+ and one of the paper mache pumpkins went for $60 some dollars. After both the postcards and the paper mache pumpkins sold, my mom looked at me and said, "Do you know how many of those things I threw away?"
I told you she had a hard time determining what was trash. At one point, the auctioneer held up a one inch mohair monkey. That little tiny, and in my opinion, ugly monkey, sold for $80 some dollars. I started to have a bad feeling about the furniture.
After several hours of auctioning off the smaller items, the bidding for the furniture began. The auctioneer started with the largest items, the hutches. My heart hit rock bottom as the auctioneer began. The bidding for the hutches.... started at $1200. Twelve hundred dollars!! I couldn't even start the bidding. I believe they sold for between $4000 and $5000.
"That's okay I thought. A table would probably be better and more functional. Yeah, I'll just get one of the little end tables."
The bidding for the tables began between $300-$500. I couldn't start the bidding on those either.
The last thing auctioned off was a 3/4 bed that my mom desperately wanted. She bid until she won.
When the auction was over, I went up on the porch and sat by Audrey. It must have been a really hard day for her. She had to sit and watch years and years of hard earned money used to accumulate treasures go to complete strangers. It was a reminder that we can't take things with us when we are leave. It was also a painful reminder that Audrey was alone. Her things were gone. There were only a handful of people that cared about her. We were present that day... me, my mom and dad, and Betty and her husband. There were no other relationships to speak of. Her mentally unstable, drug abusing, mean niece was no where to be found. Audrey didn't have any one to leave her things to. There was no one to treasure those things and remind people of Audrey and Harold.
I learned another lesson that day. A lifetime can be spent accumulating things. Things can't love you or help you, hug you or encourage you. There isn't a value one can put on relationships. Rather than being surrounded by furniture and things, I hope when I am Audrey's age, I am surrounded by people that love me. People that love me because I have served them and loved them well. People I have invested in and prayed for.
As I sat contemplating these thoughts, Audrey spoke to me. And, what she said all of a sudden stirred up this sinful person in me and made me rage with anger on the inside. She said to me, "Were you able to get anything?" She would have had no indication I was angry because I just responded sadly and quietly saying, "No. I didn't have the money to even begin bidding on most things". Her response, "Oh, you should have told me."
I was so angry. When I met Audrey, I assumed she was very poor. Judging by that apartment, I thought they were rubbing nickels together hoping to be able to eat from day to day. And, even when the house was discovered and the treasures were revealed, I didn't think much about them. But, when the auction was over and I was walking away empty handed, I was ticked. My mom and I, but mostly my mom, and Betty had spent years and countless (and sometimes thankless) hours helping Audrey. When the house was discovered, we could have went in and robbed it blind. You would think the least she could do was offer us our choice of something we wanted from her house. And, it wasn't like she needed the money. Because she had also asked us to help her find a lawyer, we knew that, even without the auction, she had enough money to live for 10 more years.
I was angry because I would have loved to have had something of hers. I would have treasured it and displayed it in my house with pride. But rather than Audrey being thoughtful and giving to the people who had given to her without expecting anything in return, Audrey remained consumed with Barbara. The auction wasn't about getting money so Audrey could live. The auction was getting rid of her things so she could die and give more money to Barbara.
By that time, I had learned that Barbara was not just a mean. Barbara was worse than a drug abuser. She was worse than mentally unstable. Barbara was a murderer.
I really don't long to leave people hanging. I didn't set out to write a novel. But, since that is what it turned into, I just can't seem to get it done.
***These are not actual pieces of furniture from the auction... just examples.