Friday, July 24, 2009


I am a treasure hunter. A treasure keeper. A treasure honorer...yes, I made the word up, but it's true. You see, I am an estate sale kind of gal. Not the kind that pushes you out of the way, grabs things from your hands - no, not that ever. It has become more of a ritual for me to enter someones home, to sift through the treasures left behind. And to honor them, bring the few chosen pieces home, put use to them, sometimes gift them to someone near and dear. I never know many details of the people who have left these things behind but it isn't too far of a reach to imagine some of their stories. I fill in the blanks with my imagination. I like to at least find out their first names...silently nod to them and in my head say "thank you for this, (fill in the blank), I will carry this lovely little (fill in the blank) forward in my life..."

There are many who arrive at these sales bent on getting a bargain, the biggest pile of items, most often to turn for a profit. These people do not interest me much - I steer clear and although plenty of times they have snapped up things I would happily have taken home, I smile and let it go. Don't get me wrong. I know there are plenty of people out there that fall at the halfway mark between the grabbers and the cherishers - just sometimes it is hard to tell.

Furthermore, I only go to the sales that Walter holds. He is so fair and friendly, knows me by name, seems just as interested in the stories and in honoring the individual who has left it all behind...

...which brings us here. I was kindly reprimanded by Walter the last time I missed a sale of his in the city. I had missed "the perfect sale for (me)" at an old Chinese laundry...I am kicking myself still. So when the email came a few weeks ago that there was an upcoming sale in San Francisco - on the ever-famous, crookedest section of Lombard Street, no less - and I realized that I was already headed to the photo lab for a client that day? Done deal.

I parked at the bottom, walked up a few flights of the famous steps and took these shots, people and cars and more people, all taking their photos and walking RIGHT by that sign. Perhaps thinking the house was for sale? None of them were going inside!

I certainly was...the front door, a faded deep coral pink...
come in

...upon entering, the water damaged entry called me up the stairs...
and look up

...and into the front room with it's view out over the crooked street below...

There I found Walter with his big smile and asked him about the history. The lady who lived here had been gone from this world quite some time, Eleanor had been a painter and SF personality in her day. Her son had unexpectedly also died shortly after her which meant that this home along with several other properties went to the then young teen grand/daughter. She is in her late teens now, will be fixing this place up, rectifying the damage from a bad water leak...moving in.

I was happy to see that there weren't many things in the sale. I assume that loved ones had kept the best of the memories...I like that...makes me feel that the individual loved well, was well loved.

I turned to go down the hall to the back of the house and found the damaged walls covered in quite a few different people but there were many by Eleanor, too...
pick one

...I continued on into the dining room at the back, and found these views of the Bay and Alcatraz (peeking through the buildings in the photo on the left), and The San Francisco Art Institute (tower in the left photo), and appropriately, Treasure Island stretching into view there on the left...
like the view?

It was in that room I found a treasure for myself. It had no sticker on it, I was afraid to ask so wandered out to the front room again. Found some big 70's sunglasses that had belonged to Eleanor - they are sure to show up in photos one day soon. Walter pulled out this pair for me to try, not for sale, Eleanor's signature pair. A self portrait was immediately required in the huge gilded mirror propped against the wall (there's Walter in the background)...
i SEE you

Then with a bit of a smile and a mild pleading in my voice I asked him about the painting done by Eleanor in the dining room...he cocked his head and with a big smile said "how about $**?" I immediately ran back and pulled it down from the wall - all mine...
He could have gotten more...but he's like that...maybe moreso because he knew I would cherish it? I like to think so. Then as I headed out into the rest of my day, the painting tucked under my arm, the glasses on my head, I smiled and thought to myself...treasure indeed.


Blogger jenshood said...

WOW WOW WOW. What a walk. What a place. What a lucky duck you are to get to go IN. What a story, what a lovely SF situation you jumped down the rabbit hole and those epic, historic, magical, treasured views. Inside. And out. GOSH.

WordVerification of the day: tosesi: that's the feeling you get when you get a REALLY good pedicure.....

1:04 PM  
Blogger vanessa/NessieNoodle said...

how cool. My mom is an estate sale goer and has even worked a few- I think she falls in your classification, she is totally there to keep the item going to give it new life and love.

What a great story, and a fantastic find.
(i can almost imagine the artsy Elenore in those glasses!)


1:47 PM  
Blogger kristin said...

i so love this. the story,those damaged walls, so beautiful to me and the treasure. you will do Eleanor proud in your glasses and what a gorgeous painting so vivid and bright! i love all things thrifted , vintage, yard saled. my home is filled with my finds. my bedroom looks like it belongs to my grandparents in a way, and i like that.

Eleanor looks to me like she lives a full life. i like that.

4:43 PM  
Blogger simply_hibiscus said...

soooooo i am ridiculously jealous of you NOW

even more than i was before

gahhh i would kill to have an option to do that :(

6:48 PM  
Anonymous sperlygirl said...

oh i love how you respect the memories and the stories in their personal artifacts. i always loved things that were passed on - it's like there is a memory of life still there somewhere inside. and that painting....could it be any more beautiful!! i adore the colors.

12:58 AM  
Blogger curious girl (lisa) said...

beautiful post leslie! thank you for bringing us along.

5:42 AM  
Blogger RW said...

Oh. This was a fun adventure!
I love the glasses. Love them.

I think I would be a cherisher too.

8:37 AM  
Blogger ::mari:: said...

De-lurking to say that I love your story and your approach to this. Thank you for sharing it. :)

Lovely photos, also. As always.

7:56 AM  
Blogger LeS said...

jen: i love you :)

ness: maybe you should visit one of those sales with your mom and see what you can give new life to? :)

kristin: i really did feel like i was walking thru a slice of history. i think of eleanor when i wear her sunnies and, oh my, i think at least HALF of my house is filled with my estate sale treasures :)

ok, simplyhibiscus, come on out and we'll hit a few together!

thanks, sperly, agreed a thousand fold :)

muah, lisa!

me, too, RW, now if only THESE glasses were the ones that were for sale! :)

mari, thank you for delurking and the compliments! :)

3:41 PM  
Anonymous doorways traveler said...

what a story. what a painting.
and you with those glasses? sheesh. dang, girl.

thanks for the rich dose of vicarious living, twofold.

much love, lisa

11:51 PM  
Blogger liza said...

thanks for sharing her story. what a lovely lady and wonderful find. that painting is a treasure and those glasses...SO CHic!

5:14 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home