My Story: I had seen this coming for a week. Random things ending up next to the dumpster on West Park avenue. As I turned on to the street that Wednesday evening, I saw the Subaru with the back open, slowly being filled to capacity. The alley lay beside the house with the dumpster full and both sides piled high with boxes laying in the “public domain”.
My dumpster ability, my “spidey” sense was buzzing and I saw that something unusual was happening. My son and I put our groceries away and ate dinner waiting for dusk, a favorite time for a neighborhood walk. Intuition told me to bring the camera and a wagon. As we moved towards the house I saw a man in his 20’s walking a young woman to her car from the house. She held him for a lingering few moments in a sustained hug. I decided it was best for us to return after our walk to pursue the “dig”.
Was this a Death Purge? Did someone die?
Returning later, the first impressions were confusing. Objects of the young man were found, like baseball cards, video games, and trophies, nothing nice but a Ninja Turtle night-light for my son. Oddly the was also cooking/craft books, spices, bathroom items like a waxing kit, and various feminine items, as if a middle aged woman was represented in the trash like an impression or ghost.
The wagon had barely room for 4 boxes, so I had to be choosy, One of the file folders boxes seemed interesting and as I shifted through another box I saw a folder that was listed as a road trip to Asheville, NC and the Blue Ridge mountains. The woman at the center seemed to save vacations. The last box called to me glowing like an orb and when I started finding the French books, the Paris Maps and the souvenirs…I was sold. 4 boxes remains of the life of Sarah Jane.
This unique collection is the story of Sarah Jane, and a series of stories found by a Dumpster. As an obsessive clerical type, she kept every scrap of paper, every record, every card and memory, filed it all away for a future that never happened. Like a detective story, I went looking for what caught my eye. The box with candles was an interesting mix of travel-memorabilia, death clippings and books in French or about France. The first story in the Sarah Jane Collection was about Sarah Jane’s trip to Paris.
What a trip it was, as Sarah went to high class restaurants, foodie shops, museums and the garden where artist Monet painted. On her husband’s birthday they spent 1200 euros and she kept the receipt. Paris was the trip of a lifetime and she kept every scrap, planned every moment and spent a lot of money. This is her adventure in her own words.
Short Bio of Sarah Jane:
Sarah Jane Murray was born in Union Missouri on June 15, 1953. She was a smart pretty small town girl who was able to go to the University of Missouri. She graduated in 1976 with a degree in Home Economics, a “Science” at the time with help from a College Grant from the Department store she worked in. Her interests included fashion, history, culinary treats and rural dialects? At some point she met her life-partner, Robert. He was a racing fan, studied law in St Louis and was a pretty Italian boy from the East Coast. This young man was on his way to glory and riches with an intense drive to pursue what he wanted.
Sarah Jane had an equal zest for life and had the same seeking of a lifestyle, one better than that of the small town in decline in which she was raised. They were a 1980’s power couple, together they dabbled in real estate, she worked with Disney to brand Minnie Mouse, helped Monsanto sell security glass and made merchandise for a Rambo movie. This was the 1980’s and consumerism was flowing, even in the Midwest. They bought a house in a fancy housing development in Ladue and worked towards the American dream.
In 1991 she got pregnant at age 37, but the complications were too much and she lost it far into the term. It was a devastating blow, to work your whole life for the American Dream and have no one to leave it too. A miracle happened two years later when John Augustus was born, they simply called him Gus. He was raised an only child who had it all. He played too much Gameboy, entered Chess tournaments and was sent to the best Summer camps carefully selected by Sarah. She approached being a mother with all the zest she poured into everything else but with a pure Heart. Every drawing, sculpture, and deed was recorded, filed and saved. Gus was eliminating an entire past in the dumpster that day. His entire childhood was recorded in ways that is common now in the world of social media, Instagram and Facebook.
One can not tell the story of Sarah without telling the story of her Mother, equally captured in the paperwork. Sarah the Mother, a Union Missouri 1st grade teacher and her special poem to the children, given on the first day. The tale of two Sarahs takes a deeper look at what makes a modern house wife and woman.
Sara Murray (the mother) would die in 2012 after many difficult years fighting cancer. One year later at age 60, Sarah would follow her mother to the afterlife. The mystery of the remaining years until Dumpster Archeology would find her things in a dumpster is one that we will label as “who knows?” and honor the parts of Sarah that makes her a fascinating study into 1990’s Motherhood and what travel was like in Paris France.
Two great stories that paint a picture of Sarah’s character. One random box I grabbed contained many unused candles, and an envelopes full of obituaries. These were largely in the Washington/Union area but some came from Robert’s home state of Connecticut. One could say she just continued to collect things, but included are numerous letters of thanks for dinners, cards and attention. Sarah seemed to touch a lot of lives.
I found a card from a Japanese business couple who lived in the St Louis for a bit, thanking her many times for picking them up at the airport and being a part of their lives. America was a little frighting to the couple. One amazing card contains an un-cashed check from a woman who borrowed money in a time of need saying of Sarah, “God sent you to save my life at the right moment”. Her smile could fill a thousands pages with hope. In her collection are the lives that touch hers and the value she left on the St Louis landscape.
More about Sarah Jane came out over the years of the project. Her time as a sorority sister was a profound experience that remained as she retained friendships, served her community and held Non-profit office positions for charity. This is the story of Sarah’s working years, told in her own words, and the words she saved in her filing system.
and so it goes, all stories end.