Meet Virginia

Some days I feel my heart might burst. It’s happening kind of a lot at Second Serve Resale. I like it. It means we are doing something right.

Howard contacted me after he saw the Globe article, and asked whether we take “entire collections”. His wife passed away and he wanted to donate. He sent me pictures of what seemed like four closets of clothing and shoes, and said, “I just want her collection to benefit others”. I told him I was sorry for his loss, and that I’d love to come and pick up her things. Howard lives in Barnstable. That’s Cape Cod.

The “official” SSR zone of pick-ups, as our website states, is southern Massachusetts and northern Connecticut. I have not been following that protocol. I often can’t refuse, and I am also not afraid of being in the car for over twenty minutes, a common Rhode Island affliction. As you all know I went to Kristen’s in Pepperell, Massachusetts because she had a Burberry trench and dresses from the 1940’s. I returned with a treasure of inventory for SSR and I made a new friend! Plus, Pepperell is lovely.

Barnstable is about the same distance as Pepperell, an hour twenty, and it would be a nice road trip. In this particular case, I did not know what the clothes were like as I couldn’t really see labels and such in the pictures, except a shoe box or two. But here was a husband who was trying to do one of those tangible things that is part of the processing of loss. I did this as a daughter. I’m not going to say no.

After suggesting possible dates and times that didn’t work, Howard said that he would come to me, which I felt bad about but agreed to. He arrived on a Wednesday morning with a Volvo that was so full you couldn’t see into it. His brother helped him pack, thankfully. Howard had a baseball hat on and sunglasses, and I thought he looked like a sailor or a fisherman but I had no evidence, really, of this. Probably because of Cape Cod. I asked him if he took 495 because of the busted bridge and he said yes, and that it’s actually the same distance, all in all, six in one hand, you know. I was happy it wasn’t a pain.

We started pulling out clothes and shoe boxes, making trips into my house with the door propped open. He was wondering where it was all going to go. I told him not to worry, that my SSR partner Susan and I will figure it out. We made a pile in the entryway, the dining room table, and stacked shoe boxes everywhere. We each took an end to two mammoth bins and carried them into the hallway.

There was so much stuff, but it wasn’t just stuff. I asked him his wife’s name and he said, “Virginia”. This was Virginia’s life, in the downstairs of my home.

We finished unloading the car and I asked him to come in for coffee or tea before he made the trip back and he said he had to go. I tried to insist but he said no. I pestered him for a photo, which I always ask when I meet donors, but he said “time to go”, and turned to his car.

I then noticed his face, under his sunglasses, and I knew why he was rushing to go. I wanted to hug him but I didn’t know if that was appropriate and I couldn’t because there was a car between us. He got into the driver’s seat and closed the door. I opened the passenger door, and sat down, probably to his annoyance but I couldn’t stop myself. I told him I’d like to sit with him for a minute and he reached over and clasped my hand, and said, “time to go”. I thanked him and told him I was going to say a prayer for him, and that we would keep in touch.

I went back into the house and said a prayer for Howard, and my heart ached. In a good way, because I know enough now, that ache like this signifies someone was well loved. As I looked around my house I saw the evidence of a life well lived, too. Beautiful clothes for every occasion and every season. Classic pieces like cashmere sweaters but also statement items like red cowboy boots, an orange leather puffer coat, and a stunning evening coat from the old Kakas on Newberry Street. Italian shoes from The Shoe Salon, in Barnstable. There were matching hangers (different sets depending on the clothing category) and shoes preserved with care in their dust bags and boxes. This was a lady with great taste who took care of her clothes, and wanted them to last.

In a glance I knew quite a lot about Virginia, and as weird as it sounds it was really nice to meet her in this way. It’s an honor, in fact, that Howard included me, and Second Serve Resale. Virginia’s clothes will benefit others. They will benefit nonprofit organizations. And they will benefit this planet.

I started going through everything; it was going to take a while. I made a mental note to go to The Shoe Salon the next time I’m in Barnstable to check it out.

After I check in on Howard.





  • Jean

    For Virginia story was so touching. I’m going to pass this along to my friends.

  • kerri

    You are a gift! Thank you for that beautiful blog about Virginia. You make my heart burst!

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