One of the very best vintage events in Eastern Nebraska is the annual jumble/yard sale to benefit the Sarpy County Historical Society. Held in September, it is typically a highlight of my thrifting year as I never fail to come home without something wonderful. The donations run from fine art, to vintage clothing, to household appliances, linens, and honestly, every imaginable thing. I've come home with lamps, vintage shoes, an antique krumcake iron, a basket full of bakelite and celluloid buttons and buckles, magazines from the 1930s, and jewelry. There's always loads of jewelry ranging from .25 cents to a dollar.
At the sale in 2015, I was looking through the items when I noticed a woman, probably in her fifties watching me. Sometimes I pick up on people's body language without knowing exactly what's going on. I remember asking if she wanted me to move so she could have a look through, and she said no. After a bit she told me a lot of the items I'd picked belonged to her mother and she was glad they were finding a good home. I remember asking her if she was sure she wanted to get rid of them as she sort of patted the pile I'd set aside. She assured me she did, took a last look at a necklace, and we wished each other well. It has been bothering me ever since.
There's a school of thought that when someone dies it is best to have a clear-out, save the few things you want, and just get on with living. I completely understand that, and as a vintage collector, I sort of depend on people possessing that attitude. Except that grief isn't one-size-fits-all, and while the various stages have some merit, they don't always necessarily arrive in order. I've had thirty years to sort out my feelings about my mother, but the woman at the sale was, from what I could tell, recently bereaved. It was too soon, but what could I do?
I've kept the items apart from my collection figuring given the size of the town, I was bound to run into her eventually at the grocery store, etc. and I could offer them back to her. That hasn't happened yet. I only got to thinking about it because stuck at home isolating, I've been cleaning and sorting my accessories and I came across the pieces again. They're delicate things. Mama must have been tiny, and not a terribly flashy dresser. The single bead on a chain seemed to be the piece the daughter was pleased to see go to me. There's nothing terribly special about it, but it must have sentimental value. I'd really like to be able to offer it back to her, if she wants it. Five years is a long time, and maybe she's still absolutely fine with it, but something made me think that she cleared out her mother's things in haste, and might have thought better of it had some time passed. I might need to employ the assistance of the museum staff to look at records of donations for that sale, and absent that, perhaps they would put a notice in their newsletter? The local paper would be another possibility.
I don't now if it is the pandemic making me unusually sentimental, or if it really was something I felt specifically about a grieving daughter, but if she wants them, I'd like to return her mother's items to her. If not, I'd be happy to go ahead and wear them knowing that she hadn't had second thoughts. So I guess that means I have a project and a bit of detective work to do. There's worse ways to spend time. I really hope I can find her.