Saturday, January 16, 2016

Saturday Musings(tm), 16 January 2016

Good morning,

Yesterday I went to an estate sale at the home of a ghost.  I bought a coffee table very similar to one that I already have, a wooden utility cart, a wall hanging in German, an African letter opener, and five clean and neatly-folded bath towels in better shape than any in my cabinet.

Lise Koenig graduated from law school one year after I did but she never practiced law.  I'm not sure what she did.  She and her husband, a professor, lived behind me on Charlotte.  They rode bikes rather than drive. Their daily walks took them down my block most of the years that I've lived here, sturdy people, arm in arm.  They missed a few months -- her bout with cancer, his with heart disease.  Two years ago, he died.  Last year, her neighbors found her at the bottom of the basement stairs, still breathing, broken and battered.  The unopened newspapers on the lawn suggested that she had fallen three days before they discovered her.  She did not awaken.

Signs throughout the house admonished shoppers that the company tending to the sale did not carry purchases.  I stood looking at the wooden coffee table, thinking how perfectly it suited my front sitting room.  We are not Movers, Don't ask. I calculated that it might fit in the back seat of the Prius; that if I pulled into the driveway by the porch, I could maneuver it down the steps of this house; that I could repeat the process at my own home.

Can I pull in the driveway if I want to buy this coffee table, I asked the cashier.  A man around the corner, out of my sightline,  said something that I could not hear.  The guy at the folding table with his box of cash answered him then turned back to me.  This man will carry it for you.  I looked through the doorway and saw a tall man, with a shaved head, wearing a P-Coat.  I asked if he worked for the estate sale company.  No, came the reply.  I knew the Koenigs.

He told me his name three times while we loaded the utility cart.  I didn't understand it.  Then he said, I teach art in the elementary school at University Academy, as though, somehow, that knowledge would compensate for my poor hearing.  Oddly, it did.  I told him that my son graduated from UA.  We groaned over the ineptitude of the Upper School art teacher who admonished my son not to waste paper by drawing so small.  I asked if he knew Mark Landes, one of my fellow Rotarians, who had been a principal at UA.  Light dawned across his face; he nearly crowed.  He felt the same way that I do about Mark:  Just knowing him brings us joy.

At some point, each of us had to leave to go get cash.  It had not occurred to either of us that an estate sale might not take plastic.  When I returned, I strolled through the dingy, neglected rooms, examining the odds and ends remaining after two days of sale.  I stood before a tapestry vest hanging in the bathroom doorway.  I climbed the stairs and my breath caught at the sight of the bed, with a pair of slippers sitting underneath it.

 I watched my helper pay for the books he had collected.  I found the letter opener on a table full of sad little kitchen goods.  I fingered it, wondering if Lise and her husband (what was his name?) had traveled.  I asked my new friend to take the wallhanging down for me.  I don't read German.  Lise had immigrated from Germany.  She spoke with a gentle accent. I folded the fabric and carried it home in my pocketbook.

 I never spoke to them when they walked past my house.  I don't know if Lise remembered me.  I would lift my hand; sometimes I would nod.  Their faces remained impassive.  They continued walking, holding each other's hand; arms entwined; bodies moving as one.

Today I will clean my house.  I will situate the cart from Lise Koenig's house and her coffee table among my other castoffs from ghosts.  I have already put the towels in my bathroom cabinet.  The letter opener lies beside my computer, here on the secretary's slide-out desk.  I hung the embroidered piece on the only wall which could accommodate it, in the hallway.  It extends downward nearly to the floor.  I don't know what it says but my friend Sheldon Vogt speaks German and I'm hoping he can tell me.

Ever since my neighbor Jack told me about finding Lise, lying on the basement floor, she has haunted me.  After her husband died, she walked alone, trudging down the sidewalk in tightly-laced shoes with a scarf wrapped around her neck.  I did not make much effort to connect with her.  I still raised my hand; I still nodded.  She would lift her chin just a bit.  She kept her eyes forward, steady.  I swear: she wrapped her arm a little tighter around the arm of one no longer there.  And kept walking.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.