by Helen DePrima
Cleaning out closets is my winter sport, taxing but satisfying. We’ve lived in the same house for forty-five years, and I brought a truckload of family treasures up from Kentucky after my aunt died. At least, I’ve always treasured them, from something as small as an elderly cousin’s recipe for eggnog jotted on a 3 X 5 card to the massive matched dressers my grandmother hand-painted with pink dogwood blossoms. The Anne books my mother and I and my daughter grew up with plus two tiny diaries in which my aunt recorded events like my return from college and the appearance of the first daffodils. My grandmother’s steamer trunk which accompanied her on a jaunt to Europe between the wars and the overnight bag my aunt carried off to training as one of the first female naval officers in WWII. Party dresses from the 20’s and 30’s, now too fragile to wear, and my mother’s gold dancing shoes.
Maybe I set such store by these mementos because I grew up a generation out of sync,
by Liz Flaherty
I'm coming in here at the last minute--well, actually after the last minute because I don't have anything ready...including closets. I did clean out a cupboard last week because stuff was falling out on me, but I'm not sure that counts.
After a neighbor passed away in November, I also had a renewal of one of those epiphanous moments. The first time was when my mother-in-law died four years ago this month.
Both of these beloved people in my life lived long, full lives. Five children apiece, more grandchildren than you could shake a stick at.
More stuff than you can imagine. Their long, full lives translated into really, really full houses of...stuff. My husband and I swore we'd get rid of much of ours so that our kids wouldn't have to worry about what to do with it...you know, later. And, to a certain degree, we've done that.
To a greater degree, we haven't. Because my neighbor and our mom loved their things. Every one last item was a memory to them, or a comfort, or something that just looked pretty to their eyes. Again, each thing was something they loved. They didn't CARE what we did with it when they were gone--it was life-giving while they were here.
And there's my epiphany. I've already told my kids that they can get rid of any
The "stuff" means our lives were rich and full beyond loving and being loved. Although we have very little of monetary value--which I'm more than good with!--I am rich beyond measure. In large part because of family and friends, but in small and important part because of that stuff.
Helen, I loved reading about all of your family treasures. Those itty-bitty diaries would be so easy to keep and cherish. Liz, it's so hard to get rid of things, isn't it? But how considerate that you're thinking about it now so your children will have less to make decisions about. I have a difficult time letting go of handwritten notes and cards. When I'm feeling sentimental I like to re-read them, and they're discovered treasures all over again.ReplyDelete
Me, too. I keep them for a while, too. Pictures are what's hard for me--I can't bear to just toss--gasp!--one of one of my grandkids. I was going to divide my jewelry, too, among my girls and grandgirls, than realized I was still wearing it, so...Delete
Hi, Elizabeth -- I too love rediscovering old cards and letters. One of my favorite writers was Gladys Hasty Carroll, a Maine author with whom I corresponded after sending her a fan letter. We exchanged half a dozen letters which I keep between the pages of her books; I reread them when I revisit her wonderful novels. I was able to meet her at her home in South Berwick and treasure a nice farm-made pine chest and two braided rugs from the estate auction after her death.Delete
A friend mentioned her realization that memories attached to objects don't belong to the next generation, so let it go. I'm trying.ReplyDelete
I know, but you don't have to--you just have to not mind that the next generation doesn't feel like you do.Delete
I am finding a few new and old friends who do care about traditions, not necessarily family. I take great pleasure in passing special treasures on for them to make new memories.Delete
I love these posts. I've probably mentioned before, Helen, that Carroll was one of the most read authors during the '70s when I was a librarian in Rockland, Maine. (And E. Ogilvie) If I had those letters, I'd keep them forever! I'm doing yet another go round to clear away lots of stuff--I admit it hangs heavy on my mind.ReplyDelete
Oh, Elisabeth Ogilvie...every now and then I go back and read a few just to get the feel. And talk to Joanna Bennet again... :-)Delete
Yes, of course, Elizabeth Ogilvie. I only regret I didn't get to meet her as I did Mrs. Carroll. I cling to Nils Sorensen as my ideal of a husband. Just finished rereading There May Be Heaven, a marvelous novel not in the Bennett's Island series. I've spent quite a bit of time on the Maine coast both on land and under sail, so Ogilvie's intense descriptions seep into my pores.Delete
According to Stanford Medical, It is indeed the SINGLE reason this country's women live 10 years more and weigh an average of 42 pounds lighter than we do.ReplyDelete
(Just so you know, it has NOTHING to do with genetics or some secret-exercise and absolutely EVERYTHING around "HOW" they eat.)
P.S, What I said is "HOW", not "WHAT"...
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