Serendipity



Karen Radford Treanor 

 


Copyright 2021  by Karen Radford Treanor

Two cats by Theophile Alexandre Steinlen.
               Two cats by Theophile Alexandre Steinlen.                                      
 
A nice older couple stopped at my stall at a recent “Trash and Treasure” market in Margate, Tasmania. The man was carrying a block-mounted poster which caught my eye. It was a large semi-abstract floral with the logo of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston across the lower margin.

Oh, my! I spent many happy hours in that museum in former times!” I exclaimed.

We got it from a man in the other walkway,” said the woman, waving across the close-mown and sere grass of the park. “He’s disposing of things for his mother-in-law.”

Apparently she has to go into a home,” the man added.

I hope I drop dead in my own driveway before it comes to that,“ I said. “Having to leave all your treasures to someone else to deal with and go into a tiny space seems awful. It doesn’t bear thinking about.”

But of course we all do think about it, all of us over 60 or thereabouts. The thought often come at three a.m. when I wake and ponder things, “What’s going to happen to all this stuff I have accumulated over the years?” I then feel guilty about my younger daughter, who is probably the one who will have to deal with all of it. Best to reduce the burden beforehand if possible, my three a.m. self suggests, which is one of the reasons I was at this market with an assortment of household goods for which I had no real need.

There were eight heavy glass tumblers, half of the number I had purchased just before we moved out of our old home and across the continent to a brand new adventure. Optimistically thinking we’d be having parties at which 16 new glasses might be required, I bought and packed the tumblers.

Six years down the track, only eight had ever been unpacked and few of them had ever been used simultaneously. I’m not sure what made me think that four decades of our not being party animals would suddenly change, but when the market announcement came to my attention, the unused tumblers went into the pile of sale items.

Along with the tumblers was a box containing the (ahem) chandelier from the living room. A sad exemplar of its kind, it had annoyed us with its feeble trio of light bulbs for five years. We had tried putting in higher wattage bulbs, but they blew out with alarming frequency. Inertia was eventually overcome and the fixture was given the heave-ho and replaced by a large, simple, energy-efficient flat light bulb which gave off four times the light and had no dangly bits to attract spiders or dust. Surely somebody would want to buy the old light! (No, they wouldn’t.)

Eight cups and seven saucers from my previous set of china were on display, hoping someone would want them. It had been a lovely china set, but over the years all but two dinner plates had broken. The cups had been spared because due to a design flaw they’d never been used. The handles were tiny, delicate, and cramped—no male hand and few females would be able to hold them comfortably.

One sale item was snapped up by an early bird before the official market opening. It was a large, heavy glass mixing bowl with a handle and pouring lip, marked off in ounces on one side and millilitres on the other. I had bought it ten years ago on the assumption that it would prove incredibly useful, but had rarely used it since moving house. “I’ve got one of these and it’s all I ever use when it comes to mixing batter or dough!” exclaimed the woman. Not haggling at all, she put the asking price down on my table and hugged the bowl to her trim bosom. Her husband looked bemused. “But if you already have one....” he started to say. She gave me one of those “Men!” looks and said to him, “That’s exactly the point; these are very hard to find, and it never hurts to have a spare.”

But I digress. Back to the couple who had the Museum of Fine Arts poster. After my comment about it, in what seemed to be a non-sequiter the woman said, “Do you like cats?” I admitted to being a cat servant and she said, “He’s got another mounted poster from the same museum, with cats. Over there.”

She pointed up and across to another part of the open-air market. I must have looked downcast, for she said, “John, stay here,” and marched off. With only the slightest hesitation about leaving my stall, car and handbag with a total stranger, I followed in her wake. She handed me over to the stall owner, saying “Here’s another customer for you,” and then disappeared. I saw at once the other block-mounted poster that she was talking about. It was a print of a picture of two cats in a Japanese style, slightly faded, but rather pleasantly so. I didn’t have time to dither, and asked the price.

A fiver do ya?” asked the stallholder hopefully. Judging by the amount of stock leaning against his table and car he had not cleared much today.

Done!” I thrust a crumpled five dollar bill into his hand and grabbed the poster and went back to my own tables. The kindly couple were still there on guard.

That was fast, “said the woman.

You don’t haggle about a $5 price,” I said, although suspecting if she’d stayed with me at the other stall I might have found myself owning the poster for even less than five dollars.

The cat print is now in the place of a Kenneth Jacks’ print which hung on a nail that happened to be at an appropriate height in the new house. (Nothing’s as permanent as picture hooks or nails that come with a new residence.)

This is a more of a kitchen picture,” Gene said, running a damp cloth over it. We stood looking at the print as the two cats, one black, one calico, preened on our wall in the light filtering in from the garden....our version of party animals.


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