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  • Perin Stifel

Story of the Month: Liz Has Fun & Marilyn Saves the Day" A Personal Experience Story by Perrin Stifel from Estate Sales Stories

(I have conducted estate sales since 1976. My company, Mansion Sales, helps a family sell the contents of their home when someone dies or moves.)


At an estate sale in Ferguson, Missouri, I was babysitting our daughter Elizabeth (named after her grandmother) while getting a sale ready. Our daughter was rather advanced in reading and writing. She was reading at three years old. We never taught her. No one did or had to. Do you know someone like that? I do. She was reading cereal boxes and I said, “How did you do that?” She replied, “I don’t know, that’s just what it says.” I gave her another one and she even read the ingredients. I couldn’t argue. She could read. And she loved to write her name, anywhere and everywhere, seriously, anywhere! Might you guess where this is going?


While Marilyn Weeks (my Mansion Sales business partner) was working in the kitchen with Mary Guthrie, her best friend and estate sale helper, and I was in the living room, Liz, now 6 years old, who also referred to herself as Beth for a while, thought it would be a great idea to write, or rather carve, the long 9-letter version of her name Elizabeth with a large paper clip deep and clear into a rather nice antique walnut vanity (which was part of a bedroom set).


Marilyn happened to go into the bedroom to check on Liz and was understandably in shock as she saw the name Elizabeth carved into the top of the vanity. I don’t believe Liz even denied it. After all, she probably thought it was a lovely place to carve her name. And Marilyn Weeks was a master at refinishing furniture and now the new art of hiding carved names carved into antique furniture. If it had said Martha Washington slept here, she might have left it alone! It took her awhile but Marilyn, along with denatured alcohol and Old English Scratch Remover hid, covered, and blended the inscribed name so it really became like invisible ink!


The bedroom set sold, and I can’t remember if we told the new owner or not. We likely did. I’ll have to ask Liz if she ever had any consequences other than “I probably shouldn’t have done that.” Or maybe she sat on a “thinking chair” for 10 minutes or so.


Liz’s mother, Alice Caroland Stifel, my wife, at a very young age, once took Eagle Stamps, the kind given out at Famous-Barr and other stores so you could redeem them to purchase various items (remember them?), and covered her mother’s dresser with dozens of stamps to help her mother, Elizabeth, decorate the room. The Eagle Stamps were perfectly licked and stuck tight. Eagle Stamps were backed with the best glue in the world. Alice’s mother saved the day, like Marilyn, by carefully removing the stamps, but could never use those stamps to buy anything. Like mother, like daughter!


As for Liz, she still is an avid reader, as is her mother, and is a librarian, like her mother was, and as far as I know she hasn’t carved her name Elizabeth or even Liz into any furniture lately.

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