She braced herself as the appraiser looked over her statue with a thrilled glimmer in his eyes.
But as he flipped it over and ran his fingers over the base, his expression changed. He fixed his unreadable stare on her and then said something she would have never imagined – he told her she needed to leave.
Linda Daniels cranked the air conditioner as she felt another unpleasant trickle of sweat crawl its way down her back.
The New Mexico summer had been relentless, and she wanted nothing more than to stay inside with her family, but something special had arrived in town that she just couldn’t pass up.
She had been a fan of the famous Antiques Road Show for as long as she could remember.
So, when the show announced they would be stopping by her hometown of Albuquerque, she felt like she would pass out from excitement. She also knew exactly what she wanted to get appraised.
The beautifully carved stone lion was purchased by her mother decades ago while on a trip to China.
The story was Linda’s mother had stumbled a little antiques store while wandering the quaint streets of a small town near Beijing and saw the thing being used as a door stop.
The mother who had sold it to her was thrilled to finally be rid of the heavy thing – and to take the $200 to go towards her family. Since then, it had been something Linda’s mother deemed a new family tradition.
The statue would be passed down from mother to daughter – and Linda wanted to know exactly what she would be handing down to her own daughter. But she had no idea of what was about to happen.
However, when Linda pulled into the parking lot, her stomach twisted into painful knots.
It was packed like nothing she had ever seen before. She knew the show would bring out throngs of people – but there were thousands, and all of them carrying treasures they hoped would be worth something more than the sentimental value.
Eyes On Her Lion
Still, she clutched the heavy lion and took her place in the long line.
Appraisers wandered up and down the throngs of people, their keen, vulture-like gazes on whatever object caught their attention. A few people were pulled out of the crowd and quickly ushered in front of the cameras. Clearly, their items were worth something. But when one of them looked right at Linda, her heart stared beating like a jackhammer.
The Perfect Expert
She immediately recognized the man in a neat, grey suit and colorful bow tie. His name was Lark Mason, and he was an expert in Chinese antiquities.
So, when he jogged up to her, set his eyes on the statue, and begged her to follow him, she knew she was holding onto something special.
Loss For Words
Only minutes later, Linda found herself standing in front of a rolling camera. To say there were butterflies in her stomach was an understatement.
Mason pointed to the stone lion, his fingers shaking. He said, “Okay. Well, I’ll start out by saying when this came up, I could barely…” His voice broke and tears formed in the corners of his eyes.
Linda stood there motionless, not even breathing.
He continued, “This is among the finest examples of Chinese art that we have seen on the Roadshow. The carving is beautiful. The workmanship is stunning.” He then asked about how she had come by it. As she recalled her mother’s story, his eyes went wide in shock.
High Quality Materials
Clearly, the mother who had sold it had no idea of its value. Then again, neither did Linda’s mother.
Mason ran his fingers along the rippling muscles of the lion’s back. It wasn’t any old stone. It was marble, and very high-quality too, basically the best anyone could get their hands on. The dollar value Linda had been holding in her mind instantly skyrocketed.
Mason added, “This dates back to the golden period of Chinese art, which is called the Tang dynasty — between the 6th century and the 9th century.” While he had seen other fine examples, he had never seen one that large.
But then he turned it over to show her the chisel marks on the base. “You need to leave right now,” he said.
It Belongs In A Museum
“If you don’t plan on selling this, you need insurance immediately. This isn’t just a fine piece … it’s museum quality. It could easily fetch between $120,000 to $180,000.”
Linda gripped the edge of the table, trying not to collapse. Their family had been sitting on a small fortune the entire time! But the biggest question still hung in the air.
Keep Or Sell?
Was she going to sell it? It was clear that Mason was salivating over the piece and would jump at the chance to help her. But then she thought back on her mother’s actions.
The marble lion was given to her with the hope it would be passed down through the generations. She tanked Mason again and left the auction – a hint of longing still lingering in the expert’s eyes. Little did she know this was just the beginning of huge, painful drama.
It felt like every bump was an earthquake – one that would shatter the statue beyond repair.
The decision before her was a huge one, and not something to be rush. The first thing she did was eagerly call her husband to share the good news. The next step was to invite her daughter over for dinner. They needed to have a family meeting immediately. But when a knock came at the door, it wasn’t only her daughter that had come.
An Unexpected Guest
Her husband was in tow, his expression as confused and worried as his wife’s.
Linda felt silly, of course it would have been expected for them to come as a pair. But when they sat down to talk about the results of the roadshow, Linda knew there was going to be trouble. The moment she revealed the value, their eyes turned wide.
No One Struggling
“Sell it, of course!” the husband said.
But there in lied the problem – no one at that table was struggling to live. They had good jobs, homes, cars, savings, and even took vacations. It was a lot more than most people had. The hairs on Linda’s neck stood at attention. To say she was annoyed was an understatement. An argument soon emerged.
Not His Business
Linda sternly reminded them of their blessed lives and that the statue was something to be handed down from mother to daughter. If it had to be sold, it would be better for someone in a future generation to have that option if things had turned dire. No one there needed the money.
She also reminded her daughter’s husband that this was a matter between Linda and her daughter. That’s when things exploded.
Linda felt her hands bunch into angry fists as the husband called her selfish. He had “big business plans that could really use a cash infusion.” She had “no right” to keep the money from them.
The daughter sat quiet, her eyes already brimming with tears. Linda’s husband thankfully was on her side and told the yelling guest that he could leave. But that was just the start. When the episode aired, Linda’s phone rang off the hook.
Long Time No See
It wasn’t just collectors who were pestering her during all hours of the day, but distant relatives who hadn’t called in years suddenly popped out of the woodwork.
It started with, “We saw you on TV! Congratulations!” The rest of the conversation was small talk about each other lives … that was conveniently pushed into the direction of money.
Everyone wanted a piece and would have some sort of dire sob story ready.
The moment Linda told them they had no cash to give out, the true colors appeared and angry words, not to mention some very vile names, spouted out of her phone. Once in a while, Linda’s daughter would call, meekly suggesting that they should sell it. Clearly, she was being pressured by the husband.
Getting Out Of Hand
Everywhere Linda looked she was seeing red.
The large dollar sign attached to the statue had suddenly turned people in to greedy monsters. The notion of a family tradition had suddenly been thrown in the trash. It broke her heart. There was only one thing left to do.
Everyone Shut Up
Linda sat at her computer and typed out an email to everyone in the family.
“The next person that calls out of the middle of nowhere, wanting to get their hands on a chunk of money, just know … I’ll DONATE the statue to a museum if you don’t stop with this nonsense. You didn’t care enough to call us when there was no money. What you’re doing is obvious and insulting.” The calls suddenly stopped.
Rock And A Hard Place
The tension between Linda and her daughter was at an all time high.
At least she could use the peace and quiet to think about what to do. It took weeks of pondering and a final, painful conclusion. Linda pulled out the business card she had got the day of the roadshow. The first step was getting insurance.
For now, Linda was going to hang on to the statue. It would stay in their family … and it would not be going to her daughter. The shattering of a tradition sat heavy in her heart.
Money really did turn people into monsters. Who knows what the future would bring? Maybe she would find a good reason to sell it. But for now, it would stay with her – a beautiful reminder of her own mother.