The Sparkling Chandelier
A beautiful comet crossing our lives!
Auctions can be exciting events. Several times, by sheer luck, we found wonderful things to acquire at various auctions. Actually, my wife, Eva, conducted large auctions herself here in New Jersey, as a volunteer and, once, as Chairperson of the Princeton Fete. This community fair used to occur every summer for decades for the benefit of our community hospital. It was typically attended by up to 25,000 visitors, who were attracted by the many art vendors and food stalls, also by some unique attractions, as an elephant to ride on or a hot-air balloon to rise with, and by a splendid auction under a big tent – until Princeton University denied us the necessary space for the fete on its playing fields.
I merely played a supporting role at those auctions. When a new object came up to be sold that appeared valuable but nobody bid for it, I put in a first modest bid, obviously too low for that object’s value. Immediately, somebody else from the audience would put in a higher bid to take advantage of that situation. The next bid came … and higher and higher the bidding went!
Once there was this chandelier. It was so large and heavy, that it had not been mounted correctly to be viewed at the auction. Only a photograph was shown and the big frame was sitting there … and boxes after boxes of crystals to be hung from that frame. The assessed value was said to be $15,000!! (Maybe that was what the donor of the chandelier wanted as tax deduction from this “charitable” auction).
Nobody bid on it. Here was my turn again – to support my wife’s effort as the auction director and to support our hospital! I bid $400! Then the bidding really took off! Within a short time, the bidding concluded at $10,000! Congratulations!
As the auction had finished and everybody was leaving, somebody tapped me on the shoulder. “Do you still want that chandelier? The winning bidder has disappeared without paying and without leaving his address!”
“O.K.”, I said. “I would go for $600”. “It’s yours”, was the answer.
When going home, the metal frame of the chandelier filled the back of our Suburban car and all the boxes with crystals really loaded it down.
What should we do with the chandelier? We could not use it in our home. But one of our sons, the one who lived in San Francisco, on the other side of this continent, showed interest. He told us to bring the chandelier out to him later that summer when we wanted to take another one of our long-distance trips all around the United States. We usually camped for two months in the Suburban while seeing wonderful scenery on the way. But with the chandelier in the car, there was no camping on the way out to California. Eva enjoyed the motel accommodations!
Once in California, the chandelier looked stunning when hung in our son’s apartment building! The crystals sparkled as if reflecting all the colorful things we had ever seen in this world!
Then, a few years ago, our dear son and his sweet wife decided to move from San Francisco to New York. He called us in Princeton, New Jersey: “Is your guest room still available? We are not coming alone!” At first, he did not say whom he would be bringing along. His parents-in-law? For how long???
It turned out that he would bring his furniture, most of which would not fit into their initially very much smaller apartment in New York. Initially? For how long? No answer!
The moving truck arrived. The guest room was quickly filled with big furniture and an endless number of card-board boxes. Four more chairs, a very tall orange sculptured standing lamp, and 23 boxes had to be deposited in our summer living room! Then still came the metal frame of the chandelier and the boxes with the crystals!
“No!!”, we said. “We dearly love you, but the living room is ours!”
Some more items were stuffed into the guest room, some into our basement, some could go to New York after all. Only the chandelier was left – frame and all crystal boxes!
Our son merely said: “We give it back to you! After all, you paid for it originally at the auction in Princeton! Now, you can do with it whatever you want!” That was generously charming – as he and his wife always are!
We offered the chandelier to a charitable auction of an environmental organization in our area. “Sorry, no! It is too big and heavy!”
We went to a professional auction house in the vicinity. “Not now! Chandeliers we can only offer next summer at an appropriate auction for such things!”
We went to that auction house again next summer. “O.K. – it may not bring too much. We have already three other crystal chandeliers for that auction. Maybe it brings at most $1,000 or $1,500 – if it sells at all!”
When the time for the auction came around, we were there! That auction house was fantastic! They had actually completely mounted all 4 chandeliers and hang them from the ceiling of the auction room, above the heads of the audience. They were all indicated in the catalogue with an expected price between $1,000 and $1,500.
There were only a few rows of chairs for the bidding audience. On the side, however, there were at least 10 tables with telephones staffed by auction house personnel for remote bidding! After all, this auction house is well known by art lovers and decorators.
After the auctioning of some furniture and paintings, the chandeliers came up. The first one actually went for $1,500 – the second one for only $1,000 – the third one did not sell at all!
Then came ours! Small bidding occurred from the audience – then, surprisingly, a remote bidder from one of the telephones joined in – we reached $1,000 – another telephone bidder joined in! – We swiftly reached $2,000!
The audience turned absolutely silent (and we, too) as the bidding continued!
When $5,000 was reached, applause arose from the audience!
The bidding continued!! We froze in or seats!
Finally, at $8,000, the hammer fell for one of the remote bidders!
Great applause by the audience! We could hardly believe our good fortune.
We subsequently had a very pleasant lunch. Then we called our son in New York. We said “The chandelier went for $8,000!”
“What did you just say?”, he responded. Then silence and laughter.
We actually split the proceeds of that auction – after expenses and our own costs – between our twin sons – to spread the happiness.
We only kept a photo of that chandelier – with all its multicolored sparkling crystals clearly lit – reflecting all the wonderful things we had been allowed to see in our lives!