Sunday, March 09, 2008


Have you ever been to an auction? I'm talking about an auction of an estate or farm. Iowa is a good place to go to auctions. My in-laws go to them whenever they can. Pink depression glass, fabric, quilting magazines, or sewing supplies are some of the treasures my mother-in-law brings home. You never know what you'll find at the bottom of the box you purchased or what others will find and share with you because they don't want it.

I like to find bargains like most people. But I prefer to find my treasures at weekend garage sales or flea markets.

I've only been to a few auctions. One time was with my mom and the possessions being auctioned were her great aunt's or cousin's; another time was with my husband's family, the possessions of his grandmother. Another time we attended the auction at the farm house and acreage we were buying, the possessions of the elderly couple that was moving out and moving into a retirement apartment in town.

I get sad at auctions. Something about having all the possessions of a person or family laid out on tables in their yard for people to rummage through and gawk at, just plain gets me down. My mom was trying to buy many of the homemade quilts that her aunt had made, the children and grandchildren were trying to buy up odds and ends at Grandma's sale, and the elderly couple kept walking around and watching their possessions slowly disappear.

The memories spread out across the tables and hide in boxes. They lean against the big tree the children use to climb. Change! You walk around and feel it seeping under your skin. Change is part of life, I know, but not a part you usually go looking for. And the sociologist in me has to look at the whole picture - has to imagine the faces that looked into the dresser mirror, the celebrations that filled the plates - so then it's become an invasion of privacy; eavesdropping, snooping.

So, please, I tell my family, don't put my possessions out on my yard to get auctioned off. And please, don't ask me to do it for you. Because something like this (see below) happens every time, I just know it.

The Auction
Leo Dangel, from Home from the Field

Not even a bid
on the old plow
rusting in the grove

We were married only months
when he took all our money
and bought that plow--

really all my money, money
I had earned as a hired girl,
babysitting, walking beans.

He didn't ask me,
just bought the plow,
Our first big fight,

His main fault maybe--
if something needed doing,
he didn't think about feelings.

I feel him behind me now.
He touches my shoulder in a way
that says he remembers

how much that plow cost.

1 comment:

Erin said...

That's kind of a saddish post but really good, too.

Cool how the poem served as a writing prompt. :)