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Viola "May" Johnson

Viola “May” Johnson.
A woman I never knew. A woman I wish I had known.

barn2

Mother and I spent last Saturday morning at the auction of her estate. It was held just around the corner from my parent’s farm. To say that it was an emotional experience would be an understatement. I turned to mom and said, “Is it okay for me to cry at an auction?” She said, “Yes. I feel like crying to.” I was mourning the loss of a person I never knew and more than that, I was mourning the fact that her belongings, her history, her home, her land, the works of her hands and what was left of her earthly life were all abandoned to an auctioneer. From what I can tell of May and what I’ve since learned of her, she was an extraordinary woman.

We came close to not going, it was raining and we questioned whether or not it would be worth outfitting ourselves in rain gear and dredging through the mud to see what was left of the 94-year old woman’s belongings. Her real estate was to be sold first followed by her belongings, which included everything from her toilet paper to her car. The auction flier advertised “this home is crammed full of an unbelievable amount of small collectibles”. That can be good or that can be bad… we would only know if we went, so we did.

auctioneer2

My aunt and cousin kept the kids. We clothed ourselves in slickers and I zipped my camera bag up under my rain jacket, which made my jacket extremely tight, hot and uncomfortable, but I’m glad I did it. And we were glad we went. We thought the rain would be to our advantage and hinder others, unfortunately everyone else had the same idea.

My parents have always gone to auctions. I’ve only been to a handful, but those I have been to have not only been entertaining, but also, memorable. This one was no different. It was an absolute auction, meaning there were no reserves. They started with her 3 bedroom house that sits on a beautiful acre and a half of land with 3 outbuildings, mature trees and blackberries like I’ve never seen. It went for a measly $28,000. This is when the lump appeared in my throat and I kept telling myself not to cry but I could hardly contain myself. I cried because something so beautiful can’t be sold for so little. I also cried because I wished I could buy it, although, I knew how unreasonable such a thought was. I kept telling myself people pay more for cheap cars than this.

I went through the house.

housecarFRONT

Her car {pictured above} was sold at noon. It was a 1985 Ford LTD in mint condition with 45,000 miles. I imagine May drove it to town and then back home, once a week for 20+ years.

The inside of the house was not updated, nor was it necessarily beautiful. But it did have hardwood floors and I imagine it had a lot of stories to tell if it could. Each room was brightly painted; I could tell May loved color!

livingroom

kitchen

After I went through the kitchen, I continued through the doorway you see and made a right hand turn and found the stairs that led to the basement. You can imagine my surprise when I reached the bottom of the stairs. The lump came back in my throat. If you’ve ever canned anything you can appreciate what I saw.

canbasement

I couldn’t believe my eyes, nor could I resist taking pictures, a lot of pictures.

cans4

Do you have any idea how many hours May spent standing over a hot stove to can all those jars? Some dated as recent as 2006; she would have been 91 years old standing over the stove canning her vegetables {that I imagine she grew} and the blackberries that she picked.

cans2006

I had no desire to crack open any of her jars but I certainly could appreciate her efforts and time. There must have been 200 unopened jars in the basement.

After nearly falling over at the sight of the jars I walked to the other side of the basement where I found her old washing machine and stove. It appeared as though both died mid-cycle.

oldwashingmachine

oldstove

The auction continued outside. People hovered over hay trailers that were placed around her yard, covered in belongings that were destined for the auction block.

backyard

It didn’t take long for me to realize that May wasn’t much of one for getting rid of stuff. Radios, owl lamps, family pictures, a wedding gown, quilts {all done by hand}, glass jars, jewelry, dolls, toys, scissors… and the list goes on and on. You name it, she had it.
lamps
radios
glassjars
quilt
lacedress
May never married and I can only wonder if she bought this wedding gown on clearance {the price tag was marked down to $20} with the hopes that one day she would wear it. It was beautiful.
Her obituary offered little insight to her life, but what it did tell, I already knew from being at her auction; that she wasn’t married, nor did she have any children. My great aunt, Martha, was kin to May. After a few emails back and forth she’s confirmed all my suspicions about May. I knew if she had living children or grandchildren most of what was up for auction would have certainly been claimed and I knew by the sight of her basement, yard and belongings she was one hard worker and a fine homemaker.
Here’s what my great aunt Martha had to say about May:

SHE WAS ALWAYS A HARD WORKER AND LOVING PERSON. THE LAST TIME WE WENT TO SEE HER AT HOME SHE JUMPED INTO THE CAR AFTER I GOT OUT ON MY SIDE AND GRABBED BOB {my great uncle} FOR A BIG HUG BEFORE HE COULD GET OUT. SHE ALWAYS GAVE US SOME CANNED BLACKBERRIES TO TAKE HOME WITH US AND SHE SENT ME SOME FAMILY PICTURES LAST YEAR THAT SHE THOUGHT I MIGHT LIKE TO HAVE. I LAST SAW HER IN THE HOSPITAL AT EVANSVILLE. MAY NEVER MARRIED OR HAD A CHILD. THROUGH ALL THE YEARS I NEVEREVEN HEARD OF A BOY FRIEND. SHE ALWAYS SMILED AND SEEMED HAPPY. UNCLE JOHNNY AND AUNT DORIS NEVER HAD ANY CHILDREN OTHER THAN MAY. SHE WORKED SIDE BY SIDE WITH THEM IN THE FIELDS AND ON THE FARM ALL HER LIFE. WHEN THEY DIED ALL THE FAMILY WERE HAPPY TO SEE MAY GET THE FARM WHICH SHE SOLD AND BOUGHT THE LITTLE HOUSE SHE LIVED IN FROM THEN ON. SHE WAS ALWAYS A HARD WORKER AND LOVING PERSON.
May kept every card ever sent to her. She didn’t keep junk mail. She kept letters and cards that were important to her, from people she cared about.

cards

She also kept every Valentine she ever received. Guess who was the highest bidder? Me. I couldn’t resist. They’re gorgeous and there are nearly 100 of them, if not more.

valentines

Mom was the highest bidder on an old doll high chair. She’s cleaned it all up and her granddaughters love it.

Mom

I also bid on and won the frog and dog for John Martin’s bookshelves.

chalkware

If you’ve never been to an auction and bid on something, it’s so exciting. It will make your heart race; the auctioneer talks so fast I couldn’t help but wonder if I was bidding against myself.

The auctioneer came out of his trailer to sell a few things.

tillerguys

The man in the red hat was bidding against the man to his right {in the blue hat} for May’s tiller.

tillerguys2

It was so fun to watch them.

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The man in blue kept looking down at the tiller, like he was measuring her up, to see if she was worth it.

tillerguys4

She was a beauty, but in my opinion not worth the price she went for. That’s what happens at an auction when two people want the same thing.

May had a few little toys. Because she didn’t have any children of her own, I imagine these were around for nieces and nephews.

toys2

This one was my favorite. It was so very small and fit in the palm of my hand.

sewingmachine

There were so many things that I saw that I would have like to bid on but an auction takes, what seems like, forever. We only had a few hours which wasn’t nearly enough time to get even half way through the sale; they were likely there all day. It’s probably best that we didn’t stay, otherwise, I would have left with much more.

I did happen to bid on and win a necklace that belonged to May, I paid $12 for the necklace {and a pair of matching earrings}.

mynecklace

Two oranges hang from each little gold branch along with a green leaf. I thought it was so unique and beautiful. Clearly it isn’t meant to be paired with a grey and white tank top but by the end of the auction the sun had appeared and my rain gear was gone.

If you’d like to see more of what I saw and captured at the auction you can do so by following this link to my Auction set on Flickr. It was certainly a Saturday morning for the record books and I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn more about May Johnson, if only it would have been this side of eternity. I hope we can meet up on the other side, I think we’ll be good friends.

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  • CC
    July 14, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Darby, what a touching post. I bet Miss May is smiling down upon you! Thanks for sharing…and appreciating a wonderful sounding lady.

    Hugs!

  • Anonymous
    July 14, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    This brings back memories of auctions we used to go to. Funny, the auctioneer and the old men in your photos look quite similar to the ones up here in rural Manitoba Canada. They even have similar hats. Now I really want to go to a country auction. Just today I used a bowl with the initials V.L. etched in pink letters . . .Violet Linaker was this lady's name.
    Thanks for the beautiful tribute to someone who must have been special.
    Eva

  • annek
    July 14, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    I like your purchases. I'm with you on the crying part…I always thought I couldn't go to an estate sale/or auction without feeling kind of like I was intruding somehow…but then seeing your post and all the things you learned about May just from being there…and I think maybe I could do it. The pictures were great.

  • Joy
    July 14, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    What a lovely post, and lovely pictures. Ms. May sounds like an amazing lady, thanks for sharing.

  • emilia morgan
    July 14, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    break my heart why don't you! what a beautiful post. i had a lump in my throat just reading and looking at the pics of May's life being auctioned off.glad your mother and yourself decided to brave the rain

  • Elizabeth
    July 14, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    i have to say, i got teary eyed looking at all that canning. i can appreciate all the hard work that goes into it.

    i grew up going to auctions every saturday. my grandfather was a real estate broker and it was always a family ordeal. you can find so many great finds and it looks like you did!

  • Rachel H
    July 14, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Wow. That was such a sentimental journey! I love that. That's also why I love going through old houses…wishing the walls could tell me all they've seen and heard over the years.

    Wonderful! Thanks. And I bet someday you just might meet that sweet lady.

  • Devon
    July 14, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Pregnant woman crying in Seattle. Lovely post.

  • Emma
    July 14, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Oh I'm all weepy Darby. How wonderful that you have given May such a lovely obituary. I'm glad you entered her world and shared her with us even though you never had the chance to meet.

  • Chris and Deb
    July 14, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    What a beautiful & thoughtful post Darby!! I have been to many auctions in my life, but have never thought so deeply as you did…..I don't think I will ever go with my old mindset again! Thanks for the beautiful tribute of Miss Johnson!

  • Amy S. Norris
    July 14, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    aww, i love ms. may and i never knew of her until i just read this post.

    auctions and estates make me sad. instead of seeing all of the lovely things that could be mine, i see the stories behind them and the memories and what they meant to someone for them to stay around. we bought our house as an estate, the lady passed from alzheimers and dementia, and do you know that her estranged granddaughter brought in an auction company to sell off family china, silver, linens, etc. it made me sick. i think that is why i have such a hard time changing things in the house, i think mrs. mara has had enough trauma in her life with the auction.

    it just makes me sad that some people don't have families that want their memoirs. on that note, i will have to say that i have some prized antiques that i treat with so much care that i really wish i knew the stories behind that have come from auctions.

    ps – LOVE the necklace!

  • nameisgrace
    July 14, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Wow. I got chills reading this post. And I am totally going to start saving cards, valentines etc. What a sweet lady she was!

  • Abby
    July 15, 2009 at 12:08 am

    beautiful post, darby. how come you didn't nab those owl lamps?!

  • Becky Brodbeck
    July 15, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Hey-looks like you are having a great trip, lots of precious memories and experiences. The pictures a great-you are doing a beautiful job with that camera!
    p.s.I would have cried at that auction too!

    when are you headed back to AL? I wish we would have arranged to meet up while you were closer to the 'ville than usual! Love ya!

  • the sweet life with olives
    July 15, 2009 at 1:50 am

    incredible. so uplifting and sad all at once. now i kind of feel like crying. looking at all of those canned preserves in the basement makes me think of and miss my grandmother who passed away a couple of years ago at 102 years old! i wonder why miss may never married or had children? from what she left behind, it seems she would have been a really warm and loving caretaker.

  • Kendall Boggs
    July 15, 2009 at 3:44 am

    beautiful!

  • Kailee
    July 15, 2009 at 3:48 am

    hey girl! I love keeping up with your blog! posts like this make me hope you write a book someday. you have a gift! (one of many) 🙂 thank you for all the hard work you put into your posts. I get excited every time I see you update. i bet Viola May would be so touched and tickled at the beautiful way you painted her life, without even knowing her.

  • Anonymous
    July 15, 2009 at 4:47 am

    Wow… what a beautiful, beautiful post.

  • kristy
    July 15, 2009 at 4:53 am

    what a wonderful post about Mary. thanks for sharing her with us.

  • paula
    July 15, 2009 at 5:34 am

    what a beautiful post. So very touching.

  • kt
    July 15, 2009 at 5:38 am

    this post was sweet and wonderful. loved peeking into the life of Miss May. She sounds delightful. glad you had fun and love your buys! how exciting!!

  • Kellie
    July 15, 2009 at 5:40 am

    Awesome – I, too, have been to a few auctions in my time – mainly antique and rug auctions – and they will surely make your heart race – especially when you are the one trying to win!!!! Great finds – what a neat lady she was!!!! Ya'll are having so much fun – what a great vacation and family time!!!!!

  • Amanda @ Serenity Now
    July 15, 2009 at 5:57 am

    Darby, this was such a sweet post. Even though May's things were auctioned, it sounds as if she did have some people in her life who cared about her.

    I couldn't believe all the canned goods! I love your new necklace, and the little dog you got for JM is adorable!!

  • Anonymous
    July 15, 2009 at 6:08 am

    Darby, you're such a sweet person…you're like Viola May in many ways…I bet so many people would love to know you too:)

    Your blog is such a source of pleasure for me…

    Allison

  • sashyjane
    July 15, 2009 at 6:17 am

    I'm now sobbing at my computer at work. She seems like a beautiful woman who appreciated the finer things in life: hard work, good friends and a happy spirit.

  • lindsay
    July 15, 2009 at 6:26 am

    gosh– WHY do I have to miss all the good stuff!??! Suppose next time you call me and I'll hit the road to meet you at the auction? Great finds too! Love that necklace

  • Ashley
    July 15, 2009 at 6:49 am

    I have a lump in my throat now too. This reminded me of when we cleaned out my grandparents house last summer. We too found a box of every card, letter, and note they had ever received…and my grandmother's shelves were packed with canned goods. What I would give for a jar of her pears now.

  • rachel blazer
    July 15, 2009 at 6:54 am

    thank you for honoring her life & her legacy! our neighbor passed away about 6 months ago, and it was incredibly hard for me to watch the auction & estate sales going on all the week after her death. i didn't know her well (she had been ill much of the time we lived down the street), but i do like to think about her memory living on in the objects she bought & loved over the years.

  • Michele
    July 15, 2009 at 6:58 am

    My grandparents were antique collectors and regularly attended auctions and antique sales. I have it in my blood too and it doesn't help that I am also a sentimental mess when it comes to old things….your post was so touchingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing May with me! By the way, the necklace is awesome.

  • Caroline
    July 15, 2009 at 7:04 am

    I have tears running down my cheeks. Probably the pregnancy but that was the sweetest post about someone you never even met. You can just tell you have such a sweet heart by your compassion for this lady. I didn't get teary until the stack of cards and letters. I LOVED going through my grandmothers stacks of card and letters that she had saved. Especially ones from my grandfather when he was in the "service" overseas. Very touching. As usual, great post Darby!

  • Love Being a Nonny
    July 15, 2009 at 7:06 am

    The valentines are what I would have gotten too! Valentine's Day is my favorite holiday…even though hubby says it's not a holiday. I love everything about the old valentines, candy hearts, red, pink, love…… Miss May must have too. I think we will be BFF's in heaven. This post was so sweet. Glad you got to go. Oh, and the canning jars of food….I imagined that she would not eat it all for fear she would use it all and not be able to can more. Just a thought, but it's how our minds seem to *think* as we get older.

  • Anonymous
    July 15, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Such a thoughtful post! I'm welling up with tears at my desk. I hope that Ms. May did not die alone. Where are her nieces and nephews?

  • tlm
    July 15, 2009 at 7:25 am

    We recently put my grandma in a nursing home and had an estate sale. It was hard to see her possessions being sold for 50 cents and a dollar. All of her things had a memory attached to them, but I just couldn't keep them all. I just hope they make good memories in someone else's home.

  • Stephanie
    July 15, 2009 at 7:42 am

    Oh the tears! What a touching post =)

  • Nessa
    July 15, 2009 at 8:52 am

    (Wiping a tear and smiling.) Great story – you honor her memory through your words and by loving her things.

  • duchess
    July 15, 2009 at 8:52 am

    What a sweet tribute to Miss May. I'm such a people watcher, I just love your photos of the crowd. Small town life at it's best.
    Congrats on your great finds.

  • Beth
    July 15, 2009 at 8:56 am

    What a lovely tribute.

  • Leslie
    July 15, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Off Topic- I met a gaggle of women from Dothan this week at the Apparel Market in Atlanta. They didn't know you though, which I refused to believe I mean how big can that city possibly be, right?

    They bought a lot of my mom's knit line (Very Mary) so if you see some well dressed kids running around, that's probably them.

    Leslie

  • Dianne
    July 15, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Such a touching post! I do love the necklace…looks like the new ones in J.Crew!!! Your visit home was certainly full and fun…never a dull moment! You and your mom look so cute together. Thanks for sharing all of this…I felt like I was there and I loved it!

  • MyLittleHappyPlace
    July 15, 2009 at 10:15 am

    I'm weepy, now, too. What a sincere and kind commendation to what must have been a very dear soul.

  • Lindsey
    July 15, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Darby, I don't think I've ever posted a comment on your blog, but rest assured you are a part of my everyday! I love your posts…always such great pictures, recipes and stories! I am a friend of Elizabeth Yarborough Ellis's here in Dallas. She introduced me to your blog, as well as Erika's. I just think you guys are precious and appreciate all that you share! Great post…May is certainly shining upon you.
    Take care- Lindsey

  • MEGAN
    July 15, 2009 at 11:03 am

    $28,000 for a house? What? I need to see if there are auctions in my area.

    The necklace is BEAUTIFUL. Absolutely unique and stunning. I hope you (and know that you are) thankful for the family you have every time you wear it. That is very sad that she didn't have anyone left when she passed away, and all of her belongings were auctioned off.

  • Jessica Ranjbari
    July 15, 2009 at 11:18 am

    I loved this post – though it seems so sad that every one of her belongings were just auctioned off…did she not have any family, I wonder? It sounds like she had so many precious items – I would have wanted them! Can't believe that her house went for $28,000… I wish I could have been at the auction with you – I would have been crying too!

  • Mrs. Davis
    July 15, 2009 at 11:19 am

    you are a sweet person to honor her and talk about her life.

  • Allison
    July 15, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Such a sweet post! Thank you for sharing that. The pictures of the canned foods were amazing! I heart your blog.

  • kate
    July 15, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Definitely have a lump in my throat after this read. From your photos, having a slight glimpse into May's life, and although without an immediate family it seems she lived a full life. Wish I could have bought her property too. I am trying to convince my dad to retire in Mt Carmel versus Minnesota (on the border of Wisconsin), not sure what he's thinking as he'll be very cold up there for sure!

  • Dwelling
    July 15, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Reading your post today reminds me of the treasure that is found in knowing others. Thank you for appreciating Miss May's life. It is clear by the beautiful valentines cards that she loved and was loved. I am encouraged to get across my street a little more and check in on my sweet sweet elderly neighbors. I think it is time again to have them over for coffee. Thanks Darby.

  • Anonymous
    July 15, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    what a beautiful story! i have tears streaming down my face. thanks for putting life in to perspective for me…I needed that today. thanks for sharing!

  • Becca
    July 15, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    You have a heart of gold, I would have cried too!

  • erika
    July 15, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    my most favorite post ever. i could cry. i love your necklace! even with the gray striped tank!
    XOXO
    I think you need to start a photography business in dothan.
    XO
    mommasis

  • Paloma {La Dolce Vita}
    July 15, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    This is such a touching story. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. May Miss May rest in peace.

  • Shauna
    July 15, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    I returned home from a tech-free vacation and gobbled your last few blog posts up like cotton candy. Thanks for the beautiful picture (no pun intended) of the town and the people who make/made it so special.

  • Kristin
    July 15, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    i am sitting here wiping away the tears. That is such an awesome post. Darby thanks so much for giving us all a chance to learn about this wonderful lady

  • Kristin
    July 15, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    oh ment to say – love the necklace. Plus i agree that the owl lamps look like you

  • Shireen
    July 15, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Hey, girl,
    This was a sweet post. I looked at the pics on Flicker…the canned veggies and fruits are BEAUTIFUL!!! I love all the colors.

    I'm glad you posted! I've been missing you!

  • C and M
    July 15, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    What a nice post! May sounds like she was a lovely woman.

  • Tara
    July 15, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    The handwriting on the jar (2006) looked just like my grandmother's who would have been 90 this year. This post takes me back.

    Glad you and your mom ended up going so that you could share your finds with us!

  • Theresa
    July 15, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    I think you have done a great job of sharing May with the world…what a wonderful way to honor her…thank you!

  • pam@pixelimpress
    July 15, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    what a beautiful tribute you've given, darby. beautiful.

  • mb
    July 15, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to May. I also go into Estate sales and want to cry thinking about a person's life being reduced to retail categories.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Ashley
    July 15, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    I know exactly what you mean. She seems like she was a special lady. I was crying while reading your post, thank you so much for sharing

  • Erin
    July 15, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    Wow, that is one of the best blog posts I have read in a long, long time. Wonderful.

  • The McRee's
    July 15, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    what a truly wonderful, heart warming post.

  • kkd
    July 15, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Darby, love this post… beautifully sweet!

  • Felicia
    July 15, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Not two months ago, my mom and I went to an estate sale, and I too cried. I caught myself crying as I watched people just look at her items like they weren't someone's things, like they were on a rack at a store. I managed to choose one of her mink coats for myself. It is complete with her monogram on the lining. It made me think about what I have to leave behind and who will want it. Thank you for your post.

  • Meg
    July 15, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    I had to go back and look at all the photos on your flickr account. You are so sweet, this post is so sweet, sweet Miss May probably wouldn't believe all this fuss over her!! I agree w/ E, your photos are wonderful! 😉 Thanks for sharing…

  • Li x 2 == Lili
    July 15, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    A really lovely blog

  • Jen
    July 15, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    Darby, I hate to admit, but I've been reading your website for a few weeks now and have never posted. (yikes – a lurker! I found you though Urban Grace Interiors) I don't know why this post was different, but it touched me like no other. It seems that each post of yours brings a tear to my eye, all for different reasons. Sometimes I feel like I can really relate (love those packet recipes!), other times I feel like an alien (I'm not a parent yet, though when the time's right we're ready), but mostly I feel so grateful that there is someone so REAL in this world. Thank you so much for sharing your life. You and your views of the beauty of the details of life are so inspiring. Thank you.

  • my favorite and my best
    July 15, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    sweet sweet may! thanks darby. and thanks to erika for pointing me here. i think about this kind of thing more than i like to i'm afraid. people and their things…it's sad to think about it when we go all that is left are our favorite things but it's the ephemeral things that we love that can really define who we are. i have been to my share of house cleanings after a grandparent passes and it is FULL of these kinds of thoughts. it can be quite lovely and warm and quite jarring and frightening. thanks for sharing your experience.
    xoj

  • Echols
    July 15, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    You don't know me, but your sister Erika is working with my husband and me to renovate a 100-year old house in Memphis. I loved reading your post today and feel inspired by your blog to live a life that finds joy in the gifts the Lord has given us, which some consider "the small stuff." Thank you for sharing!!

  • Paige
    July 15, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Stopping by from Erika's blog! Thank you for sharing this post today. I needed to read it, and be reminded that our lives are not measure by how much we have, but what we do with the gifts God has given to us. What a swwet, simple reminder of the heart of a Child of God.

    Blessings!

  • ellen
    July 15, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    I don't know how I stumbed upon your blog, but I've just spent the better part of the evening reading… Wow! I want to be you when I grown up! (but I'm older…how is that going to work?) Love your recollection of the auction and the tour of Mt. Carmel. (I asked my husband if we could move there. He didn't answer me.) And the tutorials you have… how sweet of you to share. And the vision you had for your home. Oh. My. Goodness. And on a budget at that! You are a gem.

  • Samantha
    July 15, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    I cried reading this.

  • Debra
    July 16, 2009 at 3:24 am

    Beautifully written and beautiful sentiments.

  • Design Esquire
    July 16, 2009 at 5:48 am

    What a beautiful post. I am an estate planning attorney, so I see things like this more than I would like (I know, I got in the wrong business if this bothers me). It always breaks my heart when items that were clearly loved and treasured either get thrown away or sold for pennies on the dollar. I always hope that the items that are sold will bring joy to someone else. But it does break my heart that a lot of photos and other sentimental family items aren't passed down to another relative. Great post, you captured the feelings associated with estate sales/auctions very well. I think this is my favorite post (and that is saying something, because I love all of your posts!).

  • Pink Wallpaper
    July 16, 2009 at 7:15 am

    darby, what an amazing story…i feel like i know exactly what may is like from your wonderful post…and i love your necklace 🙂

  • NatalieDeltaGam
    July 16, 2009 at 7:16 am

    the last auction i went to was in july 07. i cried so hard that i haven't been back to one. what got me the most were the family pictures–i have so many in this old house of mine and they mean so much to me even though i never met those people…there were too large round pictures in tiger oak frames of a young family (professionally done) in front of the house, probably around the 10s or 20s based on hairstyles and clothes. they were gorgeous. why wouldn't someone in the family want those? they went for $10 each. i cried so hard i had to go back to my car.
    i ended up getting a china cabinet, two porch swings, and a screen door. every time i pass the cabinet, open that screen door, or sit on those swings i think about that family.

  • Anonymous
    July 16, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Wow. I loved this post. I am a "blogstalker" that has never posted before but felt I had to after this one. It was great. It reminded me so much of going through my grandmothers house after she died. She kept everything as well.

  • Tiffany
    July 16, 2009 at 7:26 am

    Darby – This story reminds me so much of my house. I'll have to blog about it and I'll let you know when I do. You'd like the story – not only because the house is in Auburn, but also because the owner of the home had four children and buried all four of her children before her own death three years ago at the age of 95. With no living children to divide her belongings,, you can't imagine the amount of "stuff" that she left behind in the house. Letters to and from her children, baptism gowns,photos, her children's books from when they were children (in the 40's and 50's) war uniforms. I fell in love with her family yet I had never met them. Thanks for the inspiration to write about it.

  • Tara
    July 16, 2009 at 7:38 am

    Darby, you have such a sweet soul. Thank you for sharing May with us. Out of all of the blogs out there, yours is my absolute favorite.

    Tara

  • Amanda
    July 16, 2009 at 7:50 am

    This is a touching story, and you did a beautiful job of telling it in both words and photos.

  • Kathy
    July 16, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Darby,
    This post really touched my heart. Truly, your blog is my favorite. Your kindness is wonderful. Thank you for taking time to do this.

  • Anonymous
    July 16, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Thanks for such an interesting post, as they all are. I enjoyed learning a little about May. The necklace and valentines look like great finds.

  • Megan Shirley
    July 16, 2009 at 10:27 am

    What a lovely tribute to a neat little lady. It was also a good reminder to me that our stuff is just that – stuff. Although it can tell a story of our life at the end – it is not coming with us. I guess one day someone will be auctioning off my of my earthly treasures too. I need to be reminded of this daily to keep focused on my heavenly, eternal treasure.

  • julie
    July 16, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Oh! What a wonderful post! Thank you for the bittersweet story! Julie

  • Hillary @ The Other Mama
    July 16, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    I love it! I love everything about the morning. That is so neat and I think you captured her well. Do you think she knows how you spread her fame around the world?
    I think the wedding gown is the most intriguiging. And I'm sure I spelled that wrong.
    Love your new necklace!! 🙂
    Enjoy the rest of your adventure!

  • Shannon
    July 16, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    This is such a fascinating and lovely post. Thank you!

  • Mandi
    July 17, 2009 at 5:15 am

    I love this post, as well as your one about old homes last week. For some reason I feel a little sorry for May. While she had so much love to give, she must have gotten lonely by the age of 91. She certainly must have kept busy judging by all that canning she did.

  • Emily Ferris
    July 17, 2009 at 7:05 am

    Darby, what a moving post!! (p.s. I've read your blog many times over the last few months, but never commented before .. nor do we even know each other! But, i love the glimpses into your life you allow us to catch! Thank you!)
    I cried at the pictures of the letters and Valentine's. As a person who has a habit of keeping personal letters like that, it caused quite the lump in my throat! I think May would be happy someone like you would have the Valentine's now .. someone who appreciates her life, her story, and her legacy!!

  • Anonymous
    July 17, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Darby you need to write a book. I love reading your blog. I cried reading this post.

  • Julie
    July 17, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Beautiful and touching. Your words are as beautiful as your photos.

    I wonder if that wedding dress belonged to May's mother?

  • debra
    July 17, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Wow. What a great post. I am in awe of all the canned goods & all those letters. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Dona
    July 17, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Hey! Love the post, love a good auction! I'm headed past b-ham on Monday-

  • Ashley
    July 17, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    I just love your blog. This post really pulled at my heartstrings. It just reminds me of what my mother always tells me…. everything we have is just an earthly possession. I went through a phase a few years back where I was obsessed with orphaned photos and albums….it just made me sick that people's albums and family photos would be thrown out. Did they not have any family? I did an entire collection of paintings from the photos I came across at estate sales and antique stores. I felt like I was "saving" them somehow. I think Miss May would feel the same about your post.

    Here is are 2 links if you get a chance to visit:
    http://www.ashleyhackshaw.com/Tapis_Exhibition.html
    http://www.lilblueboo.blogspot.com

    I'm from the east coast (NC) but recently moved out to CA with my husband. Your wonderful photos make me miss the South!

    Have a great weekend!

    Ashley

  • Anonymous
    July 17, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Wow, I have goosebumps and tears all at once! I love old houses, auctions (yes, they are so exciting), estate sales and the stories of the lives that come along with them. I have two jars of my "Little Granny's" preserves in my pantry- I won't open them and can't throw them away…they just sit there and remind me of her. Thanks for a great post! So, glad you got the Valentines and the necklace!

  • Shannon
    July 18, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    please tell me the xo in you bid on the lamps. hootie hoot!!!

  • ginny
    July 18, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    I've been on that bridge! Or at least one very similiar. Is it in St.F.? Love your blog

  • Rebecca
    August 28, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    This was such a beautiful post! I love seeing old things from the past! This is my first time to see your blog…love it! 🙂

  • Smooshed - Fly Through Our Window
    January 20, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    […] been up to my eyeballs in May Johnson’s Valentines. I’ve been sorting and looking and wondering what I’m going to do with 150 of them. […]