My 19-year-old son now owns a pair of $450 handmade leather dress shoes. This irks me for a number of reasons. First of all, my son, Luke, (who has forbidden me to blog about him, so I’ll be referring to him as Mike), doesn’t care a whit about shoes. When Mike goes out, he wears whatever sneakers are closest to the front door, even if they belong to my husband, or a visitor. When Mike has to dress up, he doesn’t waste time deciding what to put on his feet; he owned exactly one pair of black dress shoes and they suited him fine. Now, he also owns an extremely well-made pair of brown leather shoes. And, he seemed really happy to get them. That surprised me, but not as much as the manner in which he obtained them.
The shoes came from the closet of a deceased middle-aged man. The man had expensive tastes and closets full of garments and footwear, all with their sales tags attached. His sister inherited his home and its contents. She generously offered her coworkers and their family members the opportunity to check out the merchandise and take whatever they wanted. My husband, some of his colleagues, and Mike decided to take her up on her offer.
I have never been offered a dead woman’s expensive belongings, so it’s not really fair of me to judge my husband or Mike–especially since I have been guilty of attending estate sales and buying things that I have to assume were previously owned by a now-dead person. But, in my defense, I never asked if the owner had passed on (on one occasion, my friend and I were pretty sure that the “dead” person, whose possessions were being sold, was actually alive and hiding in a room because the estate-sale coordinators kept handing food and beverages into a room marked “Keep Out”), so I could honestly tell myself that I wasn’t certain that I was stealing the shoes off a dead man, or woman.
My husband and Mike, however, couldn’t make the same case for their actions. But they didn’t even want to excuse their behavior. “What’s the big deal?” my husband asked me. “All of the stuff was brand new, and we were told to take whatever we wanted. Otherwise, it was going to charity.” I asked him if it wouldn’t have been better if it had gone to charity and he looked at me and said, “No.”
Their haul consisted of two duffel bags filled with beautifully made shirts, a leather jacket, and those shoes. Both my husband and Mike were thrilled with their “purchases.” For two men who hate shopping, I was surprised. Maybe they don’t actually hate shopping–just the paying part.
My husband’s coworker was glad that her brother’s belongings had found good homes and she told the beneficiaries of her generosity that they could go back a second time and see if they overlooked anything during their first visit. I had come to terms with my family’s first trip, but it’s going to take some time to accept that they’re going again. I’d better accompany them this time, just to make sure that they don’t mistake greed for need.
And, besides, I heard that there were brand-new sheet sets up for grabs.