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The Billionaire Estate Sale

Before the pandemic, I enjoyed the hobby of tracking interesting stories. I’d visit abandoned structures and historic places. I’d investigate unsolved mysteries tied to my area. Then, I’d photograph and write about them, and publish them here. I never realized how much I enjoyed doing this until I was forced to stop. 

Then suddenly, an opportunity presented itself. My alarm on Saturday woke me up at 6 a.m., so I could drive out to the affluent part of the Cities and secure an entry ticket to an estate sale.

Only, this was no ordinary estate sale. This one was held at the colossal estate of a billionaire, and the story behind it is fascinating.

He made his fortune in business, buying the struggling companies and turning them profitable again. He didn’t have the best reputation regarding his character, but his business sense was obviously unrivaled. In April 2019, the billionaire murdered his wife and killed himself inside the home. A basic Google search will easily pull up the news articles.

Some facts about the property:

-Listed on market in June for $12 million

-6 bedroom, 10 bathroom

-30,000+ square feet

-Built in 1939, has 8 fireplaces

-Pool, and a 3,500 square- foot guest house

-Has 750 feet of shoreline on Lake Minnetonka and another 200 feet on Lake Tanager 

-$85, 590 in property taxes (2019)

-Initially sold off a portion of his 32 acres intended for development

When I heard this sale was scheduled, I decided to follow my curiosity. I think I was expecting the interiors to rival that of the James J. Hill House in St. Paul, because I’ll admit to feeling a bit disappointed when I ventured inside. Looking past the sale set-up, I noticed I wasn’t wowed or charmed by the architecture or foundation or the decorating. It felt ... tacky. At the same time, it seemed to humanize this wealthy family who felt so far removed from my own experiences. It made me sad. To think of what happened within these walls, and then there I was browsing the material possessions that represent their lives, their family, their memories to haggle down in price. The dishware that meals were consumed from, the statues sculpted by the wife, the trinkets on display, books shelved throughout, and the sitting rooms - what conservations were had? What moments shared? Was there laughter? Were presents unwrapped Christmas morning after the sounds of excited children ran in? The estate and its neglected grounds were now merely a silent shell of itself.

The saddest thing I encountered was a heart-shaped crystal paperweight that was engraved with the phrase, “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.” I felt chilled to the bone knowing what had taken place a little over a year ago.

In the end, I did purchase a painting by the murdered wife for my own house, and with it, comes an interesting story to tell about it. The jury’s still out on whether or not the painting is haunted or not.

Update October 28, 2022: the home, which went unsold, has since been demolished.

The Symbolic Sighting of a Pair of Swans

Across the street from my house is a pond.

We see it best from our driveway.

One day, I was performing some menial tasks. We had lost track of what day in quarantine we were on. The kids were still reeling from the sudden end to their 3rd and 7th grade school years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I was working from home. Life as we knew it had come to a screeching halt. We were struggling to make sense of it, while still trying to navigate our way through the uncertainty.

Keeping busy with menial tasks helped.

As I approached the end of my driveway, I glanced over at the pond. And there, I saw a pair of massive Trumpeter Swans.

I was in awe, as I don't think I've ever seen swans outside of a zoo or nature preserve.

And then, there they were. Across the street. As though I was meant to see them.

Why is NOW the first time I'm observing a pair of swans in the surrounding landscape of my home?

As it turns out, swans symbolize the 'awakening of the power of self', and the 'development of intuitive abilities'. They are 'messengers of faith' and 'transformation', not to mention 'purity', 'grace', 'tranquility' and 'union'. There was a reason why I was to see them when I did - they brought me reassurances.

These past few weeks were chock full of unknowns, and I relied heavily on what felt right in my gut to forge on. How will my children talk about this upheaval when they reflect back on it? Will they recall the many treats we baked and home-cooked meals we made? Will they remember the increase of time we had together, since home was now also school and an office? Will they recall the marathon Xbox sessions, or the cats behaving like dum-dums since they're not accustomed to their humans being around so much? Will they complain about how lacking our Internet speed is? I wonder if they will talk about how important it is to have hope and an enduring faith, that though life has been completely transformed, the union of our little family of four strengthened in its bond.

Life now will be defined as "Before Covid" and "After Covid".

From my perspective, Covid-19 made me see how much of my pre-quarantine life I needed to dismantle before I can start anew. The things that no longer serve me will be left in the past. I will begin with what I know, what I am certain of; and use it for the foundation to build upon for the next chapter. Did a simple sighting of a pair of giant swans in a pond foretell this clarity?

I don't know.

I do know, however, if I had been subconsciously seeking some sort of sign, then surely the symbolism and happenstance of a pair of Trumpeter Swans that brought me this revelation, is it.

I may not know what tomorrow is going to bring, but I know I have faith that it will get better. I just have to be true to myself and trust my intuition as we continue to weave our way through this.