I am somewhat of a compulsive thrower-outer. Those who have seen our basement may be shocked to hear this, but it’s true. I have a low tolerance for “stuff.” I am constantly secreting things away to be given to goodwill. I say at least four times a week to my husband, my children, the walls, “We just need to get rid of EVERYTHING and start over.” Stuff, stuff, stuff.
My youngest bears the brunt of this. I got rid of nearly all the baby toys while he was still firmly in the developmentally correct stage for the toys. Let’s call it building resilience, but really it’s because I couldn’t stand to look at the pile of rattles anymore. (He’s doing fine with the approximately 3 million toys that remain by the way, don’t feel too bad for him.)
The same holds true for my childhood things. There is very little I have held on to. I have a small handful of photos, although during one nesting period of pregnancy I got rid of all the photos that didn’t have people in them. I have some old playbills of shows I appeared in. I have a small box of “treasures” – crystal things and smooth shells and other objects that reeked of magic to my seven-year old nose. But if I lost these things, except for some of the photos, I wouldn’t be too crushed.
But there are three things I have that I would be devastated if I lost.
I have an old sweater of my mother’s. It is brown and scratchy, and every time I try to try it on, I wonder how my mother could have worn it. But I remember her in it, and it makes me feel close to her. For a long time I could smell her on it, although that time has long passed. It has hung in ten closets in the past twenty years, and should we move, it will hang in eleven.
I have my mom’s flute. My mom was an amazing flute player. Although by the time she was my mom she no longer played much, it was always a treat when she brought it out. I have memories of her playing while my dad accompanied her on piano. Of her teaching me how to play my own flute. Of my bringing her flute to school and forgetting to bring it home, and the panic in her eyes. (It was recovered safely.) It was her most prized possession and in turn it has become one of mine. I played that flute at my brother’s wedding, after a two-month cram session. It is all I have left of my mother’s voice.
I have my Grumpy Bear. You know that cliché of true love, where you look at someone from across the room, your eyes meet, and you know, you just know, that you are destined to spend your lives together? That’s what happened with Grumpy Bear. I opened him up on Christmas of 1982, and that was it. He was it. Sure, I had other bears – lots of them – but none of them ever compared. He was part of the family – we even had a birthday cake for him at Christmas. Grumpy came with me almost everywhere. When he stayed behind, for the most part I knew just where he’d be when I came back, unlike the cats who had a pesky habit of moving around. (Although I do have a panicked diary entry from circa 1986: “I lost Grumpy, but then I found him.”) When I fell off my bike and broke my arm, he was there in the basket of the bike; when I returned to my beach towel after getting tossed under a tremendous wave, he was there in the sun, all warm and familiar; when I came back from the hospital the night we learned about my mom’s cancer, he was there waiting for me. He talks, although only when my dad is around. He has his own dance moves. It is still my ritual to kiss him before bed every night. And I occasionally worry about what will happen to him when I die. Would it be fair to him to have him buried with me? I just can’t stand the thought of him being thrown away.
I wonder sometimes if my children will develop attachments to any of their things, and if so, what they will be. So far, nothing seems prized – although I did get my oldest a Cheer Bear just in case. It will be interesting to see what stands the test of time, and why.
Which of your things do you value most, and why? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.