My friend Jenny of Frecklewonder fame wrote the sweetest post about an estate sale and a woman named Zane. Jenny's story reminded me so much of an experience that PRH and I once had that I felt inspired to share it with you. PRH and I used to live in Amherst, Massachusetts and I used to work at The Eric Carle Museum. One Sunday evening, PRH picked me up from work and, as we were headed home, we saw a house that appeared to have all of the contents piled in the lawn. Smack dab in the middle of the pile was an enormous, handwritten 'FREE' sign. Curious, we pulled off to the side of the road and walked up the driveway. Upon closer inspection, all of the contents of the house were indeed on the lawn! Vintage magazines, clothing, art supplies from the 1940's, black & white photographs- the lawn was covered. PRH and I started looking through the piles tentatively at first, but then a gentleman approached us and said that anything left behind would be thrown away. To artists, this kind of situation is sort of like finding gold. PRH was working on his masters thesis at the time and was thrilled to sort through collections of ephemera and vintage art supplies. I was drawn towards a mound of day dresses from the 1930's and 1940's. It was never made clear why someone had tossed everything in the lawn, but we couldn't bear to see everything just thrown away.
We loaded the car with as much as we could and left feeling sort of melancholy about the whole situation. It wasn't until we got home that PRH showed me the letters he had rescued, all postmarked from the 1930's, all written by a woman named Tacie. The letters chronicled the minutiae of Tacie's daily life as a student at Mount Holyoke College in the early 1930's- who she ate dinner with, what events she attended, the weather, what her professors looked like, what she wore to class, etc. One of my favorites was about a tornado that had swept through the college and done considerable damage to the buildings and property. Tacie had written to her parents and friends every single day for four years!
It took me about a week to read through everything. By the time I finished, I had fallen in love with Tacie's story and knew that we needed to share her letters. We donated them all to the Rare Books Collection at Mount Holyoke College, and I spent several afternoons there, learning more about Tacie's incredible life. Knowing that her story would live on made it easier to say goodbye to the letters. I kept her dresses.