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Miss Henrietta's estate begets my estate - Rhonda Rich

Never have I been interested in estate sales, or bothered to attend one. But the two-day sale of Miss Henrietta's life caught my attention when, by chance, I happened to see it in the newspaper classifieds.

"Oh, my goodness!" I exclaimed to the friend who was sitting with me on the back porch, passing a bit of the afternoon in casual conversation. "Miss Henrietta's estate sale is tomorrow." I scanned the list and saw all the wonderful things listed, like silver, Limoges, Wedgewood china and first-edition books.

"Hmmm," I mumbled to myself as I swayed back and forth in the swing and thought about it. Maybe it was time to attend my first estate sale. After all, it was Miss Henrietta and she had been such a lovely, graceful spirit to all who knew her. A much beloved school teacher who never married, Miss Henrietta had spent her life encouraging everyone, especially those younger than she. When my first book was published, she bought it immediately and then cornered me the next time she saw me to brag and brag on me.

"It's just perfect," she declared. "Everything you said is exactly the way it is. I just love it."

Barely into her sixties, she died young, after years of suffering with diabetes. The loss of her sweet kindness was felt severely by all.

Too, Miss Henrietta was the daughter of a prosperous, local merchant. I was sure that her estate would be something quite to behold. I called my sister. She also had never attended an estate sale.

"Listen, I know this doesn't sound like me, but let's go to Miss Henrietta's estate sale." I pitched the idea a bit more, so Louise agreed. We arrived early and took our place in line, about five or six people from the front. Gradually, the line stretched longer and longer.

"Look at all these people," Louise marveled as she looked behind us and took a box offered to us from the estate-sale organizer.

I nodded. "Yeah, I have a new goal in life. I want to have this kind of estate so that people will line up to buy my lifetime's possessions. As it stands now, nobody would want anything I have." I paused. "Well, I do have a couple of vintage Barbie dolls. Of course, their hair is a mess, so that probably hurts their value a lot."

The front door swung open and the crowd rushed in, snatching up silver, crystal and china that were laid out in the front room. I talked Louise into buying a large, ornate silver serving tray.

"You don't find silver this heavy anymore," I announced as though I'm an expert on silver. Somewhere, I had heard that.

For my part, I bought a silver-covered serving dish, sterling silver candleholders, a pretty silver syrup pitcher, a small silver tray, two sterling silver letter openers and several books by Southern authors.

I packaged up one of the letter openers, wrote a story of Miss Henrietta's generous, kind life and sent it off as a gift to my literary agent in New York. She is a marvelous woman and I knew she would appreciate a gift from the estate of a kindred spirit.

She wrote in a note of appreciation, "I love the beautiful sterling silver letter opener but I especially love the story of Miss Henrietta. I shall cherish it always."

Never have I been happier with a purchase. Not only are the pieces old and lovely, but they also belonged to someone I greatly admired.

I cherish them.

As a side benefit, though, Miss Henrietta's estate has now begat my estate. Thanks to Miss Henrietta, I finally have something that someone else might want.

Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for Ronda's weekly newsletter. She is the best-selling author of the new book, "What Southern Women Know About Faith."