Sunday, July 29, 2007

the aching decision

We are currently going through Mama's personal effects.

It's HARD.

Only 24 hours ago I really didn't want much at all. Seriously nothing if truth be told. We just had a garage sale to get rid of a pile of our stuff and now here were people foisting...demanding even... that I gather up Mama's abandoned stuff like the proverbial pirate. I hate the process.

I have come to a point in my life where I want to pare back and minimise my attachment to things. I have other things to worry about and surrounding myself with piles of stuff isn't in that agenda anymore. I want to be unshackled from having to mind the stuff in my life. I still like stuff...but I want only what I really need and love now. I don't want to be the keeper of things in trust for an elusive moment in the future when someone else "in the family" may want it or love it. If I can't love it or use it now...its NOT valuable! Not to me anyway.

Mama meant a lot to me as a person. She was of great age. She has a lot of very old, very attractive stuff. But do I really NEED all that in my home and life? Will her grandchildren ever feel the pangs of sentimental attachment to these things we have acquired because they belonged to a memory - to their history?

I had to process my feelings a lot about this last couple of days. It's been really hard to come to terms with the family's insistence that we remember Marion through her stuff. Family heirlooms I guess are valuable to the decendant generations for about 100 years...after that it can get really complicated as to the history of the items and the value the decendants place on that history waxes and wanes like the moon. It's JUST STUFF in the end.

Therein lies my own dilemma. Whilst I want our kids to remember with great fondness their beloved Mama... they are not really interested in keeping great hoards of her stuff right now. That feeling may change in them in time though so I guess its important that hubby and I do select some things that were of value to mama in her day so that when our kids do want to remember where they came from, we have items that may (or may not) become valuable to them by that association.

It's just sooooo hard for me to do.

Hubby has collected a few things that are quite utilitarian and practical which I applaud. I am totally happy to use good quality well-built kitchen tables, and easy-to-clean salad tongs. Those things we can use. But as for the beautiful pieces of fine china, the exquisite crystal bowls with no real "use" other than they were Mama's and are quite pretty.... I dunno. I struggle. Much of this type of thing can't be displayed easily in our home and subsequently will be wrapped and locked away for years until they are checked, re-wrapped, and re-locked away again. It just seems so pointless and a waste. If these items were out and about and could be used and appreciated with their inherent purpose within them utilized, then the attachment our kids would have to them would naturally grow by long association with family and memories of good times past. But, as it stands now, they must languish in tissue paper and cardboard in a dark cupboard. Such a waste.

There is no USE in stuff without a purpose. Even if each item over and above what I actually needed were made of gold and silver, or embedded with precious stones, if it can't have a useful purpose, then its not really that valuable as a piece to remember my beloved Mother-in-Law by. It might as well be sold to someone who does see value and a purpose in it!

I guess I sound really callous and hard-nosed about this process. I do like stuff. I'm not suggesting I don't. What I do question is my inclination to want or need stuff that really has no value or meaning AT THIS TIME to me or my family. I don't need a lot to remember Marion by. I have inside my heart and mind, wonderful memories of her and yes I have chosen a few lovely things that I associate with her, which I will use and enjoy with great pleasure. I just don't want a lot of stuff with no meaning cluttering up our home just because of some familial concept of generational keepership for a distant future!

It's just stuff.


EM said...

I don't think you sound callous at all. For what it's worth, my grandmother died when I was a teenager, and I already knew then what most reminded me of her: the apple cookie jar in her kitchen.

The jar went to someone else (it's a big family) but I wasn't too worried about it. Then a year or two ago, my parents surprised me at Christmas with an exact copy of that jar. They'd found it in a random shop while they were away on vacation. The very sight of it made me burst into tears of joy.

So I got the cookie jar after all.

The other thing that reminded me of my grandmother was the salt and pepper shaker set I used to play with in her home. It was shaped like a toaster with white and brown bread. I don't have one of those, but I have the memory of it. And that's enough to make me smile.

In the end, it's the memories that matter. The "stuff" part has a way of working itself out.

Michelle said...

that is soooooo COOL about the cookie jar! How awesome to find such a thing.

Its been a difficult process sorting through all Mama's stuff. We've ended up with a LOT more than I ever wanted or expected but thankfully most of it is ├╝ber practical so that is a good thing. The lovely bits and pieces I just don't have anywhere to show off in our home, are wrapped and in storage for a future date when we re-discover them again.

Thanks sweetie for your encouragement and compassion. It's mucho appreciated.