Today’s installment of the Chronicles is offered as a special tribute to G-ma’s longtime friend, Amy-Lyles Wilson, in honor of a recent landmark birthday. G-ma has been fortunate enough for many years to participate in Pilgrim Writers, a collaborative writing group guided by Amy-Lyles under the principles of the Amherst Writers & Artists. In this and other, related work, Amy-Lyles has coached, encouraged, advised, inspired and empowered scores of writers over the years. Amy-Lyles has contributed to several books and published nationally, but her personal world view is delightfully shared in the persona of a character named Maybelle. This little tale shares a friend’s perspective about Maybelle, a woman of many talents. Read more about Maybelle and Amy-Lyles’ work here.
Maybelle might not admit it about herself, being a modest person in all the best ways that we use that adjective, but she is a woman of distinctive style and flair, with wonderfully eclectic taste and a keen eye for the beautiful and memorable.
And Maybelle’s friends who have not yet joined the ranks of Bargain Hunters Eternal, an open society that welcomes all comers, might be surprised to learn that a primary source of Maybelle’s fascinating, ever-evolving personal collections is that most holy of all bargain opportunities. Friends, we speak here of the mecca of eclectic purchasing, as we bow to the Estate Sale.
For Maybelle, and indeed for her friends who are fortunate enough to occasionally trod behind her on the Path of Eternal Learning, the Estate Sale calls forth a finely-tuned blend of timing, observation, quality assessment, and financial analysis. While some shoppers might turn away sorrowfully, reflecting sadly on the excesses of American culture, when they see a dusty driveway table jammed with travel knickknacks, or kitchen counters lined with chipped casserole dishes in the popular hues of the style-free 1970s—not our Maybelle. Our girl, swift in her sweeping assessment and undeterred by appalling junk, unleashes her matchless powers of observation. Her keen eye lasers in on the overlooked treasures, perhaps a small, elegant vintage handbag, or the beautiful hardcover book, apparently unopened, by an author she too, always meant to read and still intends to do so. To say that one’s trash is another’s treasure is to mumble a concept that flourishes in the marrow of Maybelle’s bones.
Maybelle is a discerning and enthusiastic collector, but these acquisitions are not just for her. A thoughtful and generous giver, Maybelle often bestows these finds on others, in the most joyful form of recycling imaginable. One friend was stunned to receive, on her own birthday, a vintage tray emblazoned with the crest of a society in her home state that numbered both her father and grandfather as past members. This ignited immediate memories of bygone times and people, and a few tears came in honor of both.
Illustrating her adaptability and soul for teaching, Maybelle hunts both solo and in pairs, sometimes even on a team. If one is fortunate enough to tag along and pay attention, one may observe the Master at Work. You may learn, for example, that it disturbs the equanimity of the universe to pay full price, and nearly all prices are slashed toward the end of the session. If you spy a favorite and it is gone by the time price-slashing occurs, you probably didn’t need it, anyway. Also, it is wise to clear the trunk of the car in advance of the expedition, in case a piece of furniture you had been searching for manifests itself and beckons you in an irresistible siren song.
One recent Sunday afternoon, Maybelle and a friend were en route to lunch after church when she let it slip that a promising sale was occurring on a street near the restaurant. Should we stop? she asked. I think everything is half off on the last day. Does the sun rise in the East? Responded her companion. As they strolled up the street toward the outdoordisplay, Maybelle inquired if her friend was looking for anything in particular for her new home. The companion–who has adopted Maybelle’s discipline of keeping an acquisition target list in the head, kind of a running grocery list for estate sales—admitted that she would love to find a small, round coffee table.
Hardly were the words out of her mouth when they saw exactly that. Perched in the middle of the driveway, as though plunked there by the Tooth Fairy of Estate Sales, was a small, round coffee table. They could hardly believe it. Still, Maybelle remained her authentic calm, cool and collected self. What do you think? Breathed the friend, excited. I like it, Maybelle responded. Maybe measure it to make sure it is the size you want and then you can think about it. Steeled by the strength of Maybelle’s demeanor, the friend agreed they could go on to lunch and continue considering it. Discussing it further over salads, the friend marveled at the keen balance of Maybelle’s advice. It was supportive but not pushy, enthusiastic but not overwhelming, inspiring but not insistent. It reminded her a great deal, when she thought about it later, of Maybelle’s beloved leadership in another environment, for a different purpose, where they first met and became friends.
This tale ended happily when the table was acquired at half-price with a small additional discount proudly negotiated by Maybelle’s disciple and eagerly mentioned for the Teacher’s approval. Good girl, said Maybelle fondly. With some maneuvering, it went into the trunk of the car and was unloaded at home with the help of a patient and well-muscled neighbor. When she saw the perfect fit in the intended spot, the disciple could hardly wait to send Maybelle a picture.