Should I call myself nosy or be kind and say curious?
Either way, I have always been preoccupied with the way other people live. Oh not in that Gladys Kravitz busybody kind of way, just in how people function I guess. I don’t really care if my neighbor is sleeping with her gardener, but I am deeply interested in why she loves petunias. Whenever I am invited to someone’s home for the first time, I can hardly carry on a conversation because of the inner dialogue I am having with myself. “What – no books? I wonder if she doesn’t read or just uses an IPad?” “Do they really hang out on this uncomfortable sofa? There must be a private sitting room somewhere…”
I blame my uncle. He had an auction business and I worked for him as my first job. Often we used to sell out estates of people who had died. And sometimes we would be the first people to enter the house after the death. So the house was just as the person had left it. It may sound odd but found this to be a very personal and special thing to get to do – to sift through what someone had left behind.
I always looked for clues about the kind of people they must have been. Were they lonely? Were they loved? They actually bought and ate oatmeal (my mother didn’t make oatmeal), so what did they know that she didn’t? All those pajamas, they looked like they were actually worn – everyone I knew just slept in their underwear. An old compass on the nightstand, why? (And that is not pulled from Out of Africa, I found that once). Sometimes old ladies who had crocheted or knitted would have piles of hideous examples of their handiwork stuffed in closets and drawers, and I often wondered if all that knitting served any purpose other than keeping the knitter busy. These early glimpses into the lives of strangers changed the way I looked at other people – made me wonder.
The sad part is how the things that I’m sure were most valuable to the dearly departed person were the very things that were of no value to anyone else, the things we threw out – old letters, inscribed photographs, yellowed ticket stubs, worn pet collars, locks of hair, useless baby things in houses where no baby had lived in decades, recipes on worn index cards, datebooks…
I enjoyed that job but it left me forever interested in what I call “the archeology of everyday people.” Why do they prefer tea to coffee? Why did they press that flower in a book? Did that cracked old saucer belong to their grandmother, or is it just junk?
The truth is, these little things are really the most private and personal things in a person’s life and are absolutely not my business.
So I guess I am nosy.