Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Treasures Returned

Back in the spring, I wrote about an elderly woman who lived in town—Mrs. C.—and how after she had passed, certain members of her family took it upon themselves to take all of her belongings and put them at the curb for people to take or for the garbage men to dispose of. I wrote about how sad it was that a woman’s life, rich and full when she was alive, had been reduced to sacks of garbage in front of her house. My friend, the wonderful Tina, was happening by as Mrs. C’s stuff—rather, Mrs. C’s life—was being pitched out with the trash, and took those things that she considered treasures: beautifully-bejeweled brooches, an antique lamp, an oil painting in need of a new frame, some costume jewelry, and a couple of rings. Tina also took some furniture which now resides in the new Teen Room at our local library, a donation on behalf of this lovely woman whose possessions were carelessly tossed aside in the interest of expediency. She took the stuff because nobody else seemed to want it.

Tina is also a crafter, so after sifting through Mrs. C’s costume jewelry, came up with a plan to make me a frame with some of the choicest pieces. She knew that Mrs. C’s son and his family had lived next door to Jim for many years and that our families were old friends, even if we don’t see each other very often. The frame that she made me, bedecked with baubles and colorful rhinestones, has sat on the bookshelf in my office since the spring. Tina also made a donation in Mrs. C’s name to our local caring committee, a team who visits the sick and homebound and who also provide food and necessities to those in our village in need. Mrs. C’s material goods did not go to waste, that was for sure.

I know Mrs. C’s’ granddaughters, but admittedly, hadn’t seen them in a long time. I kept thinking that I needed to get in touch with one of the three to let them know that I had some of their grandmother’s things, but I wasn’t sure if they had been part of the team who had cleaned out the house. Maybe they didn’t want her things. Maybe I should mind my own business.

I went to the local grocery store this past Saturday and ran into two of Mrs. C’s granddaughters, Meaghan and Colleen. As they were loading donated groceries into a van on behalf of the aforementioned caring committee, for whom they volunteer, I took a chance and mentioned that I had some things from their grandmother’s house. Colleen immediately welled up and explained that her immediate family had had nothing to do with the purge and that it had been solely the idea of other family members who just wanted the house cleaned out. Her family had received none of Mrs. C’s items; by the time they were alerted to the house cleaning by various friends in the village, everything was gone, having been put at the curb and picked over by people who were told that everything was for their taking. I told Colleen that I had the beautiful frame that Tina had made from her grandmother’s old costume jewelry, the lamp, and some other items. Colleen said that none of her grandmother’s items were worth anything monetarily but for her father, Mrs. C’s son, they would provide a memento of his mother.

I went home and called Tina, telling her that I had seen the girls at the store. She immediately came over with a gold and amethyst ring as well another sterling silver ring in need of a setting. I looked Colleen up in the phone book but she isn’t listed so I found her on Facebook. I sent her an email on Monday morning and she was at my house within a few minutes to collect the things we had kept. This weekend is her father’s birthday; he’ll be receiving a picture of his beloved mother in the frame that Tina created from her jewelry.

I’m not sure what I want to say about this story, but Colleen’s sister Meaghan summed it up when she remarked that when you take the high road, good things eventually happen. (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the drift.) Colleen and her sisters stayed out of the family fray and in the end, thought they had lost everything. But thanks to Tina and her intrepid treasure-hunting, Colleen and her sisters—as well as her dad—now have some lovely mementoes of their grandmother’s life. I hope they enjoy them.

Maggie Barbieri


  1. What a wonderful, uplifting story. Hooray for your friend Tina and for you too.

    Nice way to start the day.


  2. Maggie, that's so wonderful! You and Tina are angels, and I'm sure Mrs. C's granddaughters must think so, too. I remember before my grandmother passed, she said, "There's going to be a bad scene when I'm gone" (I'm paraphrasing), and I told her, "No, Grandma, you're wrong. Your sons and daughters wouldn't do that." Boy, did I have my head up my a** because it wasn't a very good scene at all. People who otherwise seem to have it all can sure get ugly when possessions are at stake. I see some of my relatives with totally different eyes now, and it's really sad. Anyway, back to your happy tale! Here's to doing the right thing. If more people made a conscious effort to do that, the world would be a much better place.
    --Susan McBride

  3. Maggie, that was a lovely story and it struck home for me. We lost my mum-in-law last month and my husband and I have been disposing of her things for several weeks (had be out of the apartment by Oct. 31). We separated out everything we thought someone in the family might want and gave the rest to selected charities. The 'family' items came home with us to give the grandkids and the great-grandkids time to see them (some live out of town). It was hard packing up and giving away her life but at least those things that were special to her will go to someone who loved her.

  4. Tina & Maggie are more than angels in my book! Maggie, thanks so much for reaching out to Megan & I this past weekend & for supporting the Croton Caring Committee!
    I'm so excited to share this heart warming story with my family this weekend-neither Megan or I have told anyone as of yet! This story plus the momentos will truly blow them away!
    I feel indebted to you & Tina for caring about 'Mrs C's' items & giving them the proper home they always deserved. My grandmother would have been honored that you two thought well enough to stop & put her items to good use!
    I'm glad that you shared this story with your followers-it truly taught me a lesson & reinvigorated my faith in others!
    See you soon!

  5. Linda: I have a few things from my grandmother and I treasure them. Some are valuable, others not, including a worn chiffon scarf that I can see her in when I close my eyes.

    Colleen: Your family is wonderful and I am so glad that this story had a happy ending. You all deserve all the best for the kindnesses you share with others. Tell your Dad "happy birthday" from everyone at the Stiletto Gang! Maggie xoxo

  6. What a wonderful ending to this story. I'm so glad you let us know.