1972 Hammersley Annual Bell
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Title: Marisa Siervo’s Facebook

Address: facebook.com/marisasiervooneil

Author: Marisa Siervo

From: Solana Beach

Blogging since: The Dawn of the Internet

Post Title: Sale

Post Date: June 11, 2012

I had seen the signs: they read, “TODAY: SALE FROM 8 AM to 3 PM,” and they were posted everywhere in the neighborhood. For the past week or so, I had tried to ignore them. We live in a 700-square-foot apartment, and we already pay an extra cost for storage every month. We don’t need any more crap. But one is always curious.

So, today I took a walk up the hill. I came across an open gate with a sign that said, “FARMER’S BUREAU MEMBER,” and beyond that, to my right, at least two acres of land, cultivated to grow the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen. There were gigantic, mutant-looking flowers that looked like a cross between an orchid and a sunflower. They were as tall and stalky as sunflowers and had the exotic purple and pink hues of the orchid.

A Mexican directed me to the greenhouse — an airy, shaded area with rows and rows of shelves that once held flowers and who knows what else. Now they were holding someone’s once-treasured belongings. I walked around, and as I scanned the rows of stuff, I began to become acquainted with the owner of these things. She was a woman who had traveled to many places. She had bought souvenirs from everywhere, it seemed.

She had a particular fascination for bells. In the bell collection, I found three Norman Rockwells from 1979, made in West Germany. I got those for a song and a dance. I didn’t even have to haggle with the Mexican gentleman, as he was just a helping hand, an employee who probably had no idea of what the items were truly worth. I found a bell that was made in 1972, of fine bone China, in England. It was a Hammersley Annual Bell, in fact. I bought that, too, for peanuts. I found a little bell from the “Rings and Things” collection, circa 1970s. I had a matching ring-holder for that. I got it when I was a child, and I don’t know the history of it, except that the person who gave it to me loved me. Maybe it was my Uncle Sidney, my happy-go-lucky Jewish uncle who married my Tia Tina.

When I first came into the greenhouse, my eyes had immediately zoned in on a wooden owl. I collect owls, as they are one of my favorite animals. Most of my collection is in storage, and I tried to remind myself of that, but then I turned the owl over and it was a Schmid-Linder wood carving made in Switzerland. I added it to my growing pile without even blinking. I spent $5 total on all these collectible, limited-edition — and in some cases, antique — items. I felt good to have made such valuable purchases at such a bargain.

While rummaging through the stuff, I overheard the owner’s employee talking in Spanish with a Mexican lady. He was flirtatiously trying to convince her to make an offer on everything, because she was telling him that she had some kind of business that kept her returning to Tijuana, where she had most of her family. I looked at the piles and piles of Christmas ornaments: the angels — because the woman whose belongings were on display loved angels — her treasured collection of bells, the many trinkets hailing from places as diverse as the Taj Mahal in India and the Golden Nugget in Vegas. And I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness at the thought that this lady’s stuff might end up at a flea market in Tijuana. What sad trees would her glorious Christmas ornaments adorn?

As I paid for my stuff, I asked the Mexican farmhand if the lady of the estate had died. He said she had. He said she was a very beautiful person. She was 83. While I walked out of the greenhouse, I felt sad that I would never know her name. As I walked down the dirt road, I looked at those glorious flowers for the last time. I hope she had such a vision before she passed, and I like to think that a part of her will live on in all the scattered pieces of her life that lay before us in that greenhouse.

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