Shawna and I have, as part of our Shegazelle inspired quest for financial security, begun selling most of our earthly possessions on Craigslist and eBay (email me for a complete list of items currently available; they include-but are not limited to-a gas-guzzling SUV, a bedroom set, some pre-fab granite counter top, assorted power tools, oodles of clothes-most, I'm ashamed to say, brand name, a chest-freezer, and part of my collection of signed, first-edition novels. That one makes me tear up).
We'd visited an estate sale in town a number of weeks ago, and purchased some items. We somehow ended up purchasing an entire set of china with place settings for six for $80. I don't think we quite realized what we had on our hands until we got home and started trying to figure out how to offload the stuff (we didn't like the china; nor did we need it). We jumped on eBay and looked about, and found that the stuff was a veritable gold-mine.
So we tried listing a few individual pieces, and did well; we sold them each for quite a bit. Then we got an email from one of the buyers asking what other pieces we had. I listed them out, and she made me an offer on the lot. We negotiated a bit (Shegazelle: you'd have been proud), and finally came to a price that was workable for us both (if you must know, we turned our $80 investment into $600 of income). The buyer lives in Southern California, and I knew we'd be driving through this week on the way to Arizona, so instead of risking valuable pieces of china being broken by the fine folks at the USPS, I arranged to deliver it.
We got out of town late--around 5 PM, and had to make a few pit stops on the way down, so we didn't arrive in Glendale CA until around 10 PM. I pulled up to my buyer's house, and Shawna and I sat for a few moments just staring. It was an absolutely beautiful place, classic architecture on an uncommonly large lot on a street lined with mature old aok trees.
I grabbed the china out of the trunk, and ran up to the door while Shawna, Lex and Gentry waited in the car (Mother and Dad were in their own car). I expected the buyer to open the box, quickly inspect the contents, thank me, and send me on my way.
I was wrong.
She invited me in, wanted to know if my family wanted to come inside and take a break. I told her no; I thought I'd only be a few minutes. We started unpacking the china, and she started talking. She was obviously relatively well-to-do. Her house was close to 100 years old, beautifully remodeled and decorated with an elegant, tasteful touch (she did the decorating herself). I commented on a few of the architectural details, and she, excited, began showing me around the house.
And-Oh, the piano. I'm in love.
A Steinway grand in medium gloss black, hand built in 1906. Amazing craftsmanship, unbelievable sound, and in PRISTINE condition. Quality not seen in pianos today--even in Steinways. I was in love.
She let me play it. I was blown away. The piano is probably worth somewhere in the neighborhood of a brand new fully-loaded BMW 750i, but she had no problem letting me play it.
I finally tore myself from the piano, not wanting to take advantage of her hospitality. She asked how I came about owning the china; I told her. She mentioned that she collects the stuff. I got the impression she wasn't eager for me to leave when she asked, again, if my wife would like to come in; I ran out and grabbed Shawna.
She came in, and the buyer began telling us about her foray into buying china. She has an enormous collection-probably close to 200 pieces. Large by any measure, but particularly for a woman who lives alone.
She showed us the collection, piece by piece. All were by the same manufacturer, all very pricey pieces-but then that didn't really surprise me.
Then she DID surprise me.
"I eat on this stuff every day, you know," she said.
We looked at her for a moment, then looked at each other.
She saw and chuckled quietly.
"Yes," she said, "I know it's really expensive and it's foolish; my daughter tells me I'm nuts, but I do. I use it every day."
"You see," she said, "I had an older sister that passed away a few years ago at age 61. She passed away suddenly. She went to the doctor and they told her that she had cancer. Four months later, she was gone. She was healthy up 'til then, but suddenly she was gone.
"My brother-in-law and I were going through her things, cleaning things up, packing things away, after she passed away, and he pulled out a fancy scarf from her closet. It was a really expensive scarf that she'd had for a number of years, but she'd never worn it. My brother-in-law pulled it out of the box and held it up for a moment. 'She never wore this,' he told me. 'She always said she was waiting for a special occassion to wear it; it never came'."
She paused for a moment, holding an expensive china dinner plate in her hand. Then she looked up at us.
"I realized then that life is meant to be lived. My sister was saving the "good" things in life for sometime later, but later never came. I'm sixty now," she continued, "and I might not wake up tomorrow. If that's the case, then I want my today to be lived to it's fullest. And so I use my expensive china, and play my expensive piano, and enjoy my fancy kitchen, and live in my house. It hasn't always been like this, but it is now."
With that, I learned an important lesson: I might not have tomorrow. So I'm going to live today as though there might not be a tomorrow; I'll have no regets.