Jane’s whole life she grew up with an iconic photo on the wall of her mother on her wedding day. She always assumed that when she was older, she would proudly display that photo on her own wall. She never imagined that a low-budget storage company would auction off her precious belongings because of a simple mistake. She tried desperately to track down her lost photo until one day 14 years later when she happened to look into an antique store window. Even though she had been heartbroken for 14 years over the lost photo, what she found was worth so much more.
One bright sunny day Jane was running some errands in town when she passed by the local antique store, as she had done countless times before. As usual, she scanned the display in the window with mild curiosity, perhaps hoping to spot some good colored glass vases for her collection. But then she saw something that made her heart stop, and her knees almost gave out from beneath her.
“It can’t be… it just can’t be true,” she whispered to herself and she stumbled towards the window, leaning close to the glass and cupping her hands to see better in the bright sunlight. She was frozen in time and space until her breath fogged up the glass and she was shaken out of her dream.
“I was sure my feet left the ground,” recalls Jane, as she thinks back to that day. She didn’t have a second to waste and dashed madly to the entrance of the antique store and yanked the door open so hard the jangling little bells nearly fell off.
She was in such a crazy hurry because what she saw in the window of that antique store was too good to be true. It was not only a beloved childhood memory, but also a precious heirloom that had been missing for 14 long years, and until then she was sure it was gone forever.
“All my life, we saw this wedding picture on the wall in our home,” says Jane. “Me and my sister used to play dress-up in the house we grew up in, and the photo of my mother on the wall was always our style icon. We would dream about getting married ourselves someday and that photo represented that dream.”
Nearly everyone has a certain photo or item they can vividly remember hanging on the wall of their childhood homes, and this was exactly the case for Jane. “That photo shaped my view of what it means to grow up. I loved it so much,” she said with tears in her eyes.
A Series Of Unfortunate Events
Jane never imagined she would lose it. “I just always knew that that photo was an heirloom and that when I was all grown up it would hang on my wall and my daughters would look at it and know how beautiful their grandmother was.”
Nobody ever imagines that they will lose a precious heirloom, especially one that doesn’t have a lot of monetary value to anyone outside their family. But sometimes the universe has a different plan in mind, and a string of unfortunate events can happen to anyone.
By then the young glowing star in the photo, Jane’s mother, was getting along in years and could no longer live alone. Jane’s father had passed away some years ago, and she and her mother knew that it was time to move her to a supportive community.
So Jane’s mother moved out of her home, Jane’s childhood home. And since Jane’s sister and brother both lived out of state, the enormous task of packing up her mother’s house fell on her shoulders alone. “I was working two jobs then, and I just didn’t know where I was gona put all this stuff!” She remembers.
Hard Hurry To Pack
Jane needed to get the house on the market ASAP before the market took a turn for the worse, and she was understandably overwhelmed with packing up a 4-bedroom house with over 3o years of belongings. She knew the only option was to pack everything up quickly as she could.
If she was doing a quick packing job the only option was to put the things into a storage unit and sort it out later after she had sold the house. A storage unit was the only option because like most of us she didn’t have a lot of room at her own home to store all her mother’s possessions.
Never Go Cheap On Storage
“So I went out and found the cheapest heated storage unit I could find. I knew I was putting a lot of precious family photos and delicate things like that so I did pay extra for a heated unit, but it was still a budget place.” Jane didn’t know she would regret that decision for the rest of her life.
With all the stuff piled high in the storage unit, Jane’s mind was free and she felt light as a feather knowing her stuff was safe there. Now she was free to deal with the headache of selling her mother’s house and also making sure that her mom was settling in comfortably in her new living situation.
The Tragic Loss
Months went by, and Jane had her hands full cleaning every inch of the house and overseeing contractors who were in and out of the house making repairs. After a long time, they had signed with some honest buyers and it seemed like finally, the whole mess was over.
But that was just the beginning of Jane’s worries. Since selling the house had been taking up most of her time, Jane had been neglecting the state of her own home, and it was several more months before the dust settled and things were calm again.
It had honestly been several months since Jane had thought about dealing with all the possessions in the storage unit, but one day she was organizing her living room and suddenly remembered the wedding photo of her mother and realized that finally, her childhood dream was a reality.
It was now her turn to display the precious photos on her mantle. She decided she would drive to the unit and only look for the photo, and then pay the unit until the end of the year, she would deal with the rest of the stuff after the holiday season.
“My Heart Stopped”
She drove to the self-serve storage unit and went to her number, 188. But to her dismay, her key would not fit into the lock no matter how much she tried to shimmy it. It was odd because the lock didn’t look familiar to her, but she didn’t think too much about it.
Since it was a self-serve and a low budget place, there was no one on the premises and she dialed the helpline and was told that they would send someone out to help her. She was told within 30 minutes an employee would arrive.
So she settled in to wait, and it wasn’t long before an employee with a clipboard arrived. The young woman asked her to confirm her name and address. She checked his clipboard with disinterest until something caught her eye.
She frowned and looked up at the number 188 on her door and back down at the clipboard. She said, “Sorry ma’am, I’m going to have to call my manager, it’ll just be a minute.” And it was then that Jane had her first feeling of foreboding.
A Bad Feeling
She wrung her hands nervously while the woman stepped away and talked to her boss. When she finally returned, she was pale and looked very unhappy. She told her that she had some pretty bad news, and then she wasted no time telling her.
She said that she saw in their system that Jane had missed two payments in a row and that action had been taken in accordance with company policy, a company policy that Jane herself had signed when she rented the unit.
The company policy is that after 1 month’s missed payment, a letter of warning would be sent to the renter, and if there is still no response by the next month, then it was the storage company’s right to auction off the unit to the highest bidder.
Jane was horrorstruck, and she stared dumbly at the young woman and then again at the storage unit. She said, “so you mean to tell me my things are gone?” She thought of her mother’s photograph and countless boxes of her keepsakes and she felt sick.
Jane demanded to know who had bought her unit, and the storage company said that the only information they could provide was what could be found in public records, which was the name and phone number of the bidder.
The name was a generic LLC holding and Jane called the phone number and left a voice message on a machine. But Jane was not one to give up easily, and she went to work to dig up information about the company.
Handy With The Internet
With internet searches, she found that the LLC was owned by a larger company, and she called the phone number for that company and heard a recording stating their business hours were limited from 8:00 am-1:00 pm on Monday-Wednesday. It was then 3:30 pm on Wednesday.
She would have to wait five whole days to speak to them, and she did so with incredible patience. When Monday at 8:00 am finally came, she was ready with her phone in her hand and dialed. This time a nice secretary answered.
The secretary told her that while she didn’t know the particular details, but generally the auction house would sort through and look for valuable things that might sell in antique stores, and the rest of the things they deemed as un-sellable would be simply discarded.
But the secretary really wanted to help her and said it was a long shot but he did have a list of vendors that the auction house deals with. Jane said she would be thankful for the list, and the secretary took her email and said they would email it later that day.
The Hunt Begins
As promised, they’d sent Jane a list of vintage vendors that the company is known to sell to. Since her things were either discarded or sold in bulk, it was impossible to know which vendor was in possession of her things.
Jane was optimistic, all she had to do was call the vendors one at a time and ask if they had recently purchased her mother’s belongings. She opened the list and all her optimism vanished.
“Have You Seen This Photo”
She was shocked because there were over 200 vendors on the list, and they were listed by name only, without even a phone number to go on. She would have to manually go and search online to find the phone number for each one.
She found the first number and called, only to realize how hopeless the situation truly was, because she couldn’t simply say “do you have a photo of my mother,” and additionally, she didn’t even know the contents of many other boxes.
Not Giving Up
Over the course of the next year, Jane made it her ongoing mission to work through the list of vendors. She would call and ask them if they had purchased an auction from the specific date, and then go on to ask if they had seen some particular items.
Most of the shop owners were friendly enough, but it was like finding a needle in a thousand haystacks because it’s impossible for shop owners to know each and every item on their shelves. After a year, even asking was getting ridiculous.
Slowly Jane came to the realization that those precious belongings were lost. Her mother grew older and eventually passed away, and that is when not having her mother’s photo hurt the worst.
14 long years had gone by since the incident with the storage unit, until today when she was running errands downtown and walked by an antique shop, stopped dead in her tracks and then cupped her hands to the glass in disbelief.
Ran To The Door
She then rushed towards the door of the shop, yanking it open and she went straight to the window to grab the photo that was perched on a wooden chair in the window display.
The window display was blocked, however, and she frantically called for the shop owner, “hello!? Anyone here?” And a moment later the shop owner came out from the back, wiping his hands on his jeans.
“Hello, ma’am, how can I help you?” He asked, somewhat alarmed when he saw how frantic she looked. She was too excited to speak, and she just pointed to the window display. By the time they got there she had regained her composure.
“I’m terribly sorry for my hurry,” she said to him apologetically. “But I saw you have a photo of my mother in your window. I lost it years ago, I can’t believe it but that’s my dear mother!”
The shop owner opened the window case and Jane reverently reached out to take the photo in her hands. She’d waited for 14 years for this, and she never thought she would see it again.
The shop keeper was staring at her, but Jane didn’t seem to notice until he broke the silence and said, “so thats really your mom? Stay here a moment, I think I may have something else for you that you’ll want to see.”
More Precious than the Photo Itself
With that, he disappeared down the stairs to the storage room and came back up a few minutes later carrying a white box with blue paper. He walked over to Jane and set it on the table for her to see. She was shaking with excitement.
“Here it is, I knew it was around here somewhere,” he said. “This was donated to me a few weeks ago along with the picture of your mother. Have a look.” Jane was too shocked to speak.
Her Mother’s Wedding Dress
Jane moved away the paper and pulled out her mother’s wedding dress, the very one that she was wearing in the famous photo. She couldn’t believe it. She always wanted this dress, but she never knew her mother had kept it. But that wasn’t the most shocking part.
The Shop keeper said that he wasn’t going to sell the items to her, and angry tears welled up in Jane’s eyes until he continued to say, “this is my gift to you. Both of them are rightfully yours. I won’t accept payment.” Jane had no words, and she hugged the man.