My friend Mary is a veteran treasure hunter and estate sale scout. She looks for places that are lived-in, worn-at-the-edges, abundant–in other words, houses with a lot of stuff in the basement. Mary loves discoveries of ephemera best: bits of ribbon, rolls of old wallpaper, kitschy greeting cards, and she’s willing to whisk through the contents of desk drawers and dig through musty closets for a great find.
Last weekend, Mary invited me to a sale held at a former convent of Armenian nuns, which before that was the many-roomed replica manor home of a wealthy family. The place is now marked for demolition. It was one of those places layered in stories: the third floor narrow hall with rooms in the eaves for servants, a grand sun room darkened by the nuns into a makeshift chapel, a wing painted in ice cream pastels for orphaned children. I didn’t pick up much–a plate, a stitched scene (of Armenia?)–but I marveled at the crackled linoleum, the porcelain door knobs, the notebook filled with needlepoint patterns, Xs in squares, the pencil still tucked in the page.