Tuesday, June 30, 2015
The Things we Keep
I helped my friend Deborah move last week. We quickly transitioned from the stage of lovingly holding treasures and thinking about the memories they evoked, to wanting to torch the whole house, crushed by the sheer volume of accumulated stuff.
I felt those same sensations when my family moved two years ago. On the final exhausted, emotional morning, my carport was full of piles that hadn't made the first, second, or third purges, but simply could NOT come to the new house with us in the end.
Yet today, I still have too much stuff.
Both my friend's life of late and mine are examples of what we already knew-- the words painted on the wall at my old house-- "The best things in life aren't things."
We get it.
Yet still, we do have THINGS, which is never more clear than when we must move them from one place to another.
I wanted to help Deborah more than I did, because choosing what to keep and what to donate is extremely personal. The humblest item could be full of meaning, while the most expensive isn't.
For example, one of my family's treasures is a big brown plastic mixing bowl with a handle and a spout. It used to have a buddy, a slightly smaller orange counterpart, until Shadow chewed it up a few years ago.
These bowls have always reminded me of my childhood, a time when I felt nurtured and safe. I remember my dad sitting in his brown and orange rocking chair in his pj's, chowing down on multiple scoops of ice cream from the orange bowl, while wielding an enormous spoon.
That orange bowl took me right back to the 70's. To unsupervised kids making ice cream floats in tall glasses, always adding extra Coke as we drank them down. To roaming the neighborhood. To four square in the driveway and kick ball in the street. To bikes with banana seats, jaunts to 7-11, and the hot walk to the pool in bare feet. To figuring out how to navigate the culture of growing up.
The big brown bowl reminds me of popcorn, and watching movies with my mom and a string of friends and boyfriends on our plaid couch in the early 80's. To a nascent social life, still in the security of my home. To sleepovers, siblings, first kisses, and Saturday Night Live.
Today, when Margaret makes popcorn for one of our Survivor marathons, she always reaches for the brown bowl. She knows it's impossible to pop every kernel, that the good pieces always run out too soon, and that even though we pass the bowl back and forth between three people now, not four, it represents both her past and her present. I have a feeling that as long as the dogs never get a hold of the bowl, it will end up in her home when she is an adult.
To most eyes, the bowl is insignificant and even ugly. It does not give me the same thrill of promise and orderliness and beauty I get when I browse the matching housewares in a Target aisle.
But to my eyes, the big brown bowl means family.
What is something that you keep that would not mean anything to outside eyes?