Actually, seventy suitcases were delivered to my church last week, but as the days went by, word of mouth by people who enjoy a good story, nudged the number closer to 120.
The minister found a call on his answering machine from a woman in the church that she was leaving town rather unexpectedly and that seventy suitcases would be delivered to the church the next day. Not, “would it be okay?” no, just “they’re being delivered.”
Panic set in. There really is no room in the tiny church to deal with 70 suitcases. A plea went out by e-mail for people to drop everything they were doing, if possible, and get over to church to begin sorting. Everybody was told if they did so, they could leave with four empty suitcases. LOL.
I spent Saturday afternoon with four other people and we were the second fleet of volunteers. By the time I left there was plenty left to do for the next batch of people early the next week.The suitcases were locked, so one of the volunteer’s job was to cut off the locks. We set up five large tables and began sorting through used clothing, unused new clothing, shoes,handbags and other items all with the store tags on them, collectible teddy bears, memorabilia of a certain pop star from an earlier era, brand new children’s books, children’s movies, Harry Potter, Beatrix Potter, books about faeries, books about gardening, a small fortune in spare change, old family photographs, old letters, and on and on.
We were, of course, sorting through someone’s life, and given a glimpse into its more poignant aspects. As it turned out, I knew the owner of the suitcase from my work. She lived alone, and, as far as I am aware, never married. Whenever I saw her leaving work or coming to work, she dragged a suitcase. Occasionally she wore earmuffs, even in summer, and I suspect that they offered her some sort of protection against voices. If people didn’t know “Mary” they might not be inclined to talk to her because of all her oddities, but in fact, she was pretty smart and articulate, and, she held down a responsible job. But, the price of being different was loneliness, and Mary was terribly isolated, which made her oddities more pronounced than they otherwise might have been. Her life, her many obsessions, were there in the suitcases.
There would have been no one for Mary to to turn to when it was time to clean out her apartment, so Mary did the church a favor. She simply picked up the phone and announced “suitcases are coming.” The minister had initially wanted to divert the taxi cab for a drop off at one of the local charities, but when the head of the bazaar committee got wind of this, she said, “Absolutely not! We’ve got a bazaar coming up in October. We’ll call in the troops.”
Mary, through her generosity and quirkiness, has organized the bazaar for us, and will ensure that a tidy some of money is raised. We hardly need any more donations.
God Bless you, Mary. Good luck in your new home.