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Estate of Mind

Finding Meaning in Discarded Things



You never know what you might find at an estate or tag sale. Gott likes to think of the people and the memories behind the items he sometimes buys.

Last summer, I was driving up Fairfield Woods Road when a yellow sign caught my eye: “Estate Sale,” it said, “turn here.” Never one to disobey a sign, I made the right-hand turn and continued up a tree-lined street until a line of cars told me I had arrived.

Those of you who enjoy estate sales know that there are, generally, three kinds. The first are glorified moving sales, in which homeowners try to price mass-produced Ethan Allen furniture and Home Goods gewgaws at high retail so they can make a few bucks to cover the down payment on a new place in North Carolina. The second are junk sales, in which exhausted, bereaved family members attempt to unload years of accumulated detritus for pennies on the dollar. But then there are true estate sales, in which a home becomes a museum where buyers might find wild and wonderful treasures.

The moment I walked into the house off Fairfield Woods, I knew I was in the midst of a true estate sale. The house was frozen in time. There were tube televisions and cassette decks and piles of tchotchkes. Everything was analog, solid state, and injection molded. The prices clearly screamed “Get rid of it all!”

In the living room, I flipped through a box of records before entering the kitchen, where I found vintage gas station collector’s mugs (Rocky! Bullwinkle!) and more Cornflower Corningware than I’d seen outside of my own parents’ kitchen circa 1984. The dining room held a multitude of surprises including a few original automotive brochures (“The 1986 Volvo 240 has a number of advanced features”) that I picked up for my college roommate. He’s a real car guy.

As I reached the top of the stairs, I began to piece this family together. Surely, there’d been a husband and wife, and I caught a glimpse of pink carpeting that suggested a daughter. But the second room off the upstairs hallway heralded another clue: there must’ve been a teenage son. I’ve got pictures on my phone of an original Miami Vice poster that had been neatly rolled up and stuffed in a box in the corner of the room. I spotted a Fairfield Warde year book from 1987. Next to it sat a box full of hand-dubbed cassette tapes: Hooters, Peter Gabriel, Bon Jovi, Phil Collins. It looked like nothing in this dude’s room had been moved—or thrown away—since Ronald Reagan was in office.

I rifled through the pile of clothes on the bed and was excited to find a vintage 1980s surf shirt and—wonder of all wonders—a pair of Jams. (If you weren’t a teenage boy in the late 1980s, Jams were neon-colored shorts that were all the rage.) Five dollars bought the lot.

When I got home that afternoon, I tossed the clothes in the washing machine and the brochures in the mail, and went about my business. But I couldn’t shake a feeling. There was something about that house. Who’d lived there? What had happened to them? Why did it seem like everything in that house had just stopped, more than thirty years ago?

While in the son’s room, I’d pulled the yearbook off the bookshelf and seen his name inscribed in the front cover. So I googled the house’s address and the boy’s last name. Sure enough: there they were—husband, wife, daughter, son. Another quick search told me that the husband died more than a dozen years ago. The wife died in 2013, and the house, it seemed, had been closed up since then. And the son? He died, too—last year. So there it was.

Fairfield is a community steeped in history. Our town was founded in 1639, and we still encounter the names of our own towering historical figures—Burr, Osborn, Penfield—every day. The Fairfield Museum and History Center is, of course, an incredible resource that helps us understand the broad, deep, and occasionally unsettling history of the place we call home.

But there is another history here in Fairfield, and it’s one that unfolds behind the windows and doors in our own neighborhoods. When I bought my first home, I frequented estate sales so I could find furniture for the guest bedroom and flatware for the kitchen. Now, I rarely buy anything at an estate sale. Instead, my fascination with these sales comes from my fascination not with the history of the Burrs, Osborns, and Penfields, but with the history of the regular, everyday people who live among us.

So the next time you see a sign for an estate sale, slow down and take a moment to check it out. Sure, you might find a cut glass pitcher for ten bucks or a cool old seltzer bottle for five. But you might also find your curiosity piqued as you ponder the connections we make with each other and the bonds that connect us. Maybe you’ll think, as I do, about the people in our community whose stories must be told—because we need to hear them—before it’s too late.


ONE MAN’S TRASH  In the midst of a 55-acre field in New Milford, an oasis of vintage and repurposed finds abounds at the Elephant’s Trunk Flea Market. Open from April through mid-December, it’s New England’s largest market, and is often the backdrop for HGTV’s “Flea Market Flip”. 

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January 2019

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

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In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
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Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and how he influenced the civil rights movement. Watch short films about King's life and create your own craft with colorful papers and ribbons...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: People's United Bank
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager

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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Join the area’s leading investment and financial professionals at the CFA Society Hartford’s Annual Forecast Dinner. The group’s premier networking event of the year will be...

Cost: Individual Member seats are $90 before 1/8, $110 for non-members

Where:
Connecticut Convention Center
100 Columbus Blvd.
Hartford, CT  06103
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Sponsor: CFA Society Hartford
Telephone: 860-604-1411
Contact Name: Rebecca Taylor
Website »

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Join us to explore adventures in stories about Alice in Wonderland, animals, and games!

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »

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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for the reception on the opening evening of the exhibition, Ghosts: French Holocaust Children, on Wednesday, January 23rd, from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Walsh Gallery at the Quick Center for...

Cost: 0

Where:
Walsh Gallery
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Website »

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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

Join us for a conversation between collector Jeffrey Horvitz and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., (Curator, The Horvitz Collection and The J.E. Horvitz Consultative Curator, Department of Drawings, Division...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield University Art Museum
1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

A French Affair: Drawings and Paintings from The Horvitz Collection will be on view in the Bellarmine Hall Galleries from January 25 - March 29, 2019; an Opening Reception will take place on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield University Art Museum
1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Website »

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Thursday, Jan. 24 Author Talk: Stephanie Land - Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother's Will to Survive, 7 – 8:30 p.m. Maid is showing up on almost every best of, must read, don't miss list of...

Cost: free

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Contact Name: Wilton Library
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Members and guests are invited to join us for the Election of Trustees, followed by an artist talk by eight photographers with work in the current exhibit. Visit our website at...

Cost: 0

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Center
681 South Ave.
Waveny Park
New Canaan, CT  06840
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More information

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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Born from humble beginnings in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport, CT The Alpaca Gnomes cut their teeth in the neighborhood bar scene by playing marathon shows filled with originals and a wide...

Cost: $15.00 - $20.00

Where:
Wall Street Theater
71 Wall Street
Norwalk, CT  06850
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Sponsor: Jeanne Moore
Telephone: (203) 831-5004
Contact Name: Jeanne Moore
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Are you a lifelong with a passion for sharing history? Find out about becoming a Museum Docent! Docents are trained volunteer educators who present guided tours and other education programs to...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »

More information

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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Saturday, Jan. 26 Mini Golf Family Day in the Stacks at Wilton Library, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Wilton Library will hold its 2nd mini golf fundraising event. There will be food (each paid admission will...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilton Library
137 Old Ridgefield Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Wilton Library
Telephone: 203-762-3950
Contact Name: Wilton Library
Website »

More information

  Touchon transforms verbal language into handsome geometric compilations, to reveal the beauty and musicality of language characterized by warmly colored shapes, interlocking irregular grids and...

Cost: free

Where:
Canfin Gallery
39 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
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Sponsor: Canfin Gallery
Telephone: 914-332-4554
Contact Name: Jean-Claude Canfin
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