They are auctioning Elizabeth Taylor's jewels at Christie's in New York in December, and they expect the finest of them — about 260 pieces — to bring in some $30 million. But that's just a tiny part of what she left behind.
In October, the estate of John Wayne — responding to fan requests that remain strong since his death more than 30 years ago — is auctioning off some of the large collection of movie memorabilia it holds. Everything from his Golden Globe for "True Grit" to the eye patch he wore in the movie. While the auction should bring in tens of thousands of dollars, its real purpose is as a "thank you" to the Duke's still loyal fans.
For reasons that I will explain, I have been thinking a lot about what will happen to my jewels and my memorabilia after I am gone, and I am guessing a cardboard box dropped at Goodwill.
Faithful readers will recall that the first floor of my house flooded in June when a hose popped off the back of my refrigerator. The water destroyed the wood floors in the dining room and living room and brought down the ceiling in the basement.
It was a mess, and repairs required me to move all of the furnishings on the first floor into one of those PODs in my driveway. Except the couch. We couldn't get it out of the house so we left it in the kitchen.
Anyway, I had to pack the contents of my china cabinet, and very little of it is my china. Most of it came from my mother and my mother-in-law and some of it came from my grandmother, including the silver tea service she was given for being Grand Matron of the Eastern Star.
You can see the crystal in my mother's wedding pictures. They were clearly gifts. And I remember when my grandmother gave me the little hand-painted flower vases that are worth probably nothing.
I bought the Hummel figurine on a high-school trip to Europe more than 40 years ago, and my Irish mother-in-law bought the Waterford crystal shamrock on the trip to her homeland that might have been the high-water mark of her life.
There are the porcelain hearts — in pink and blue — which were painted to resemble birth announcements for my children, given to us by an old friend. And a service of Lenox Christmas china that increased after my mother-in-law's death.
And there is the gold-trimmed celery dish and eight little salt dishes given to me by my father — brought home by an uncle who traveled abroad — for no particular reason but that my father loved me.
As I packed and unpacked these items, I wept. Not only for the people, long dead, who gave them to me. But for the items themselves, their history lost, their meaning forgotten, when I am no longer around to tell their stories.
I was carefully cleaning and returning these beautiful items to their shelves as we waited for Hurricane Irene to descend on us. My husband wanted to know why I had crystal glassware all over the house when the windows certainly would blow in at any moment. Wasn't that glass enough?
I ignored him but tried to catch the attention of my daughter, who was hunkering down with us.
"Jess," I said, "you can see these goblets in Grandma Reimer's wedding pictures."
And this tea set, I explained, came to me from the grandmother for whom you are named.
Someday this will be yours, I wanted to say, but I thought that would be a little morbid when the other parent in the room was predicting our imminent destruction.
I could see it was going to be hard to catch her attention for this inventory of love, loss and dinnerware.
"You should write this down," she said.
And so I am.