Last week Karl did one of his “sales”. I try to avoid them at all costs even if it means scheduling a vacation away…alone. Or checking into the hospital for planned emergency surgery. Pretty much I’d rather take out my own liver then do one of his “yard sales”. Karl has perfected it to an art, however, and it was actually the first time I enjoyed myself (except for the moment whenI wanted to stick a vintage branding iron up a man’s rear end…but that’s an entirely different tale). The pre-event caused us minor anxiety and only a record few arguments. “Can I sell this?” was Karl’s mantra for the week. I almost started hiding our belongings for fear that he would put a “for sale” sticker on it. I found myself haggling to keep things like his customers would do later in the week.
“Really? You don’t want to sell this chair?” Karl would ask. “No! I love that chair! It was my Nannie’s. I can’t get rid of it! I’m going to fix it!” I stated as I picked up the chair’s broken fourth leg laying on a closet shelf. Eventually we compromised and I sold the chair, or the vase or the whatchamacallit found in our attic or dusty closet.
“Hey I’m putting an ad in the paper” Karl told me over the phone. “That okay?” I told him I thought that’s what we always did. He said “Yeah but you do realize that as SOON as I put an ad in the paper, your sister or one of your siblings is going to show up at the sale.”
In case you haven’t gotten the memo, I haven’t spoken to any of my three siblings since I closed mom’s estate in October 2011. The documents were filed and then that was it. I sent them their money and I never heard from them again, and frankly, I’ve been fairly okay with that. I’ve had some sad moments, like when my niece got married and we weren’t invited to the wedding. “Hey I’m glad,” Karl said, “That means I save money ’cause we don’t have to send a gift!” My husband, ever the savvy saver and occasionally the one to find the silver lining in things. So, we placed a bet: I bet $1 that not one member of my family would have the gumption to show up unannounced at our house; Karl bet $200 that one of my estranged family would drive up the lane.
First of all let me state that Karl is $200 richer. Secondly, let me add that the most unlikely member of my family drove up and said, “Hey can I look around?” My niece, Anastasia, my sister’s youngest girl, who is now about 21, had the Katie Planche Friedrichs chutzpah to just drive right in, pulled out her “smart phone” and started not so secretly shooting pictures. Ana was the child that when I was getting married threw a hissie- fit at the Waldorf and three grown women had to attend to her while I dressed myself in my bridal gown. She is also, sadly, the niece I knew the least. She was born while I lived in New York and they lived half way across the world in Guam. After mom had died, I found a sweet pearl necklace given to me by Mama when I was in college. I tried to give it to Ana and she said (and I quote) “No I don’t want anything from you.” I went into the bathroom and bawled my eyes out because before I was a wife and a mother, which came later in my life, I was a really great aunt to my nieces and my nephew. When I came home to visit I made sure that I saw them, I bought them gifts, I took them out, I paid for them to go to summer camp, and I flew them to New York and showed them how to paint the town all shades of red (PG red mind you). Ana only knew me as the sister who didn’t speak to her mom, or spoke to her and then fought with her. So from her perspective I guess when she saw me, she saw “danger Will Robinson”! Out of all of the family she was the one that I would least expect to cross the enemy lines, but maybe she was the one who didn’t have anything to lose.
I am 99.9% sure she was sent by her mother (and probably my brothers) to “look around” at what we were selling. I’m not quite sure why because I certainly wouldn’t show up at their garage sale or their house, especially under the circumstances. Here’s the great triumph though for me: I felt nothing but love and peace when she was there. I knew what she was up to and I knew she was probably lying that “she just wanted to show her boyfriend around” but it was all okay. When I met her boyfriend I shook his hand and said “Oh I’m the infamous aunt that I’m sure you’ve heard so much about.” Awkward laugh. Then, I walked with them to the barn and let them photograph whatever it was they came to take pictures of. I showed her some cool stuff in the barn and I told her to go “picking” if she’d like.
Just recently I had been going through pictures and stuff and found some things that I really wanted her sister, Caroline and her to have. I had packed them away in an envelope and put it in my armoire along with my sister’s highschool portrait. I invited Ana and her boyfriend inside, even though my house was a mess by any other southern girl’s standards. We sat at my grandmother’s table and I served them iced tea with fresh mint. There was an awkwardness to the visit, but I felt nothing but love. I joked that we have a messed up family and she said but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a relationship. Hmm… I thought. Maybe.
Before Ana left I ran to my car and grabbed a bag that held my parents’ silver wedding goblet we call “The Loving Cup”. The cup is from my parents wedding on December 28, 1952 and hand-engraved “Drink to me, Sup to me, Unto Eternity” with their names and the date . My mom’s wish was that each of us would have our names and wedding dates engraved on it at the appropriate times. Ana’s parents had their marriage information engraved on the cup back in 1982, but I could never find a hand engraver to engrave the cup with our wedding date. When we split up the contents of mom’s household effects, my sister was suppose to take the cup. Somehow it ended up at the bottom of a box that I had just opened about two weeks ago. I had it wrapped in a towel and put it in my car with the intention of taking it to Adler’s to have it finally marked with our nuptials. Without thinking, and even though I never did get it engraved, I gave the cup to Ana. I said, “Since Caroline is getting married, I’m sure she’ll want this.” I explained to her the meaning behind the cup and she looked at it. “But your name isn’t on it.” she remarked. “That’s okay,” I said. “It doesn’t really matter. I want you guys to have it.” She told me that she would make it her mission to have the cup engraved with our names and wedding date.
I don’t know if she will. And that really is okay. Thankfully I have finally been graced with forgiveness. I feel such peace. I don’t expect any great familial reconciliation but for the first time I felt God’s grace of forgiveness and you know what? It was beautiful. The Loving Cup has gone off to a new home and the love, well the love— will just flow for eternity.
Catherine Slattery Friedrichs wed to Karl William Baumann
August 8, 1998