Sunday, April 15, 2012

the tzaddik and the auction

I never really understood the tzaddik's obsession with auctions, but if I ever were going to, now would be the time.  As we speak, the last of the tzaddik family possessions are being auctioned off at the very same auction house from which the tzaddik had purchased so much of it.  End of an era.

You'd think I'd have kept this stuff.  But no. It's just not mine.  Somehow, it just seemed right to send it all off back into the world from whence it came.


Let these things inhabit someone else's home for a while, and let the pattern start all over again.

I think this is why I liked the movie The Red Violin so much. Here was this object, so lovingly created by a master craftsman, passing through quite different hands in different countries, generation after generation.  Objects have a life of their own long after their fabricators (creators?) are dead.

So. This stuff.

Mostly gifts that the tzaddik brought home to Mrs Tzaddik that she either accepted or rejected, claiming that he had paid too much (though to his credit, he generally fudged on how much he'd really paid).

And now, somehow, unbelievably, they're both dead.  The tzaddik and his wife. I just can't believe it.

End of an era.

But the stuff just keeps passing into someone else's hands.

There's this chair I sent off to auction.  The tzaddik had actually gotten it for me and not for her.  I saw the receipt many years later.  It really had been a bloody fortune.  Also from Clars Auction.  I loved that gaudy chair. Hand carved in impossible detail. Almost 200 years old. Beautiful!  But my kitty loved it way too much and the seat was getting wrecked.  Let someone else have the pleasure.

Then there are the Arts and Crafts beds that Mrs Tzaddik was sure were worth their weight in gold.  But nobody else seemed to want them after we were all done with them.  Back to the auction house.

Redge, the head of Clars, assures me that everything, everything finds its place.

Online bidding was something the tzaddik was unfamiliar with, being entirely computer and internet illiterate. Instead, he'd go to the auction previews the day before, case the joint, and leave a slip of paper with his bid on it.  If it looked like the thing might be Jewish, you can bet the tzaddik could find it a home.  His apartment had been cluttered floor to ceiling with those pieces that had not yet been adopted out.  After his death, it took almost a year to find homes for all those orphans that my father loved so dearly.

I finally get that Mrs Tzaddik was telling the truth about the tzaddik. That she got him to marry her in order to give her child a father.  And he, in his tzaddikhood, agreed to the deal.

He was a great adoptive father!

Not just to me, but to every unloved, homeless (primarily Jewish) object he encountered. He had a whole museum full of the stuff.  An apartment full. A car packed full with orphans looking for homes.

"I have something special for you," he'd say. "Come out to the car..."

All that junk. Treasures all. He'd research their secrets, discover their histories, and tell their stories. They were alive to him.

But the really beautiful objects, they all would be brought directly to the queen herself to pass judgement on each and every one.  If Mrs Tzaddik accepted a little found treasure, the tzaddik's face lit up in relief.  And if she rejected it with a scowl or a shout, back it went into the trunk of his car. To be figured out later.  Sometimes she changed her mind. Sometimes she didn't.  Sometimes he'd try me out next. Sometimes he didn't.

The problem for me was that most of the stuff that Mrs Tzaddik liked was breakable.

I can't stand breakable stuff.  It's breakable.

So. He used to bring me only unbreakable orphans.

Books. And brass trays. I was okay with that.  They're useful. And unbreakable.

But for her, the more delicate and fragile (and breakable) the better. Figurines of beautiful women from the '40s. Marble statues of beautiful women from the 18th century. Textiles of beautiful women from the pre-Columbian period.

Beautiful women.

She saw herself in all the beautiful women that ever walked the earth, in myth or real life.

I can't stand that stuff.

And then there's the delicate and fragile pottery. Art glass with hand painted scenes, iridescent lamps, vases with improbable glazes.  Each one having found it's home in hers. Orphans with special privileges. Adored and daily dusted and coddled.

Do not touch.  Her house was more museum than the museum was. Every orphan had found its precious home and should not be disturbed.

But there they are again. At Clars.

Should I feel guilty about this? Was I supposed to keep them all? Preserve them in their preciousness, preserve her beloved breakable things?

What I love is redistribution.

The notion that one's 'place' is only temporary in the world. Call it home for a while, and then it's time to move on. We adopted souls know no place is really home unless we've made it for ourselves. On the other hand, maybe we orphans are supposed to stick together.

No. It doesn't work that way.

I took the plants. They were the only ones I really felt sorry for.  I gave them a new home, and you know what they did?

They bloomed. Just like that.

Next step, the books.
Come one, come all.
Take these orphans all...