This morning, I learned a little lesson about THINGS.
This comes ironically the day AFTER I snapped a pic of a thick glass bowl full of treasures and trinkets. They were the topic of an article I had just written in Druid City Living, the little paper I love to write for in my “Lake Living” Column.
The things were mostly meaningless without the story behind them, from places known and some I have to admit, unclear. My curious kitten sent the bowl crashing to my desk in a thunderous plunk and a pile of mess just where I was typing.
Until now, it sat on my windowsill between me and the sunshine. I glance at it now and then, remembering the times my babies (now grown) gnawed on a small melodic, silver rattle. It is nestled among feathers gathered from my parakeets and chickens as well as sheddings from gulls and a bluebird. It is accented by dried leaves, bright orange rock fragments from North Carolina, a golf tee and marker from Mountaintop, a small Bible with a magnifying glass tucked in the back cover that I got as a child. Sand dollars, some broken, some glued to a piece of wood. Sticks, mostly in shapes that spoke to me while I meandered a labyrinth with my best friend just before brain cancer sent her to a better place.
The slow motion movement from the bowl and the twice as fast dart of the cat is still engrained in my mind. A reminder that we can contain our things, but life still has a way of breaking our concentration, unleashing what is important.
I yelled at the cat, I screamed out loud. I watched in horror as he scrambled to the floor, then spoke aloud, “What is MY DEAL?”
Somehow, instead of cleaning it up, I ended up in my closet FILLED with trinkets, books and treasures. I sat on the floor. I took out a box I have carried around since I discovered it in the back of my mother’s closet. A glimpse into the life of the uncle I would never know, killed at age 18 in World War Two. Without his death my mother would have never been adopted. I would have never been. I snapped this pic of the box, the pic of, he, his mother and his sister at the time, before my mother was even a thought. The envelope returned to sender with the words “Missing in Action”.
I resolved today that things should either be displayed, shared (as in a museum) for some purpose, or TOSSED. I cringe at the third option. I used to rummage for hours in the upstairs rooms of my grandparent’s abandoned home. They closed it up, left every thing there after Allen died. What remained were things such as this chair, these photo albums, items of someone’s glorious yesterdays, avoided, forgotten.
I scraped up the tiny shards of glass only after snapping a pic of the pile too. I could not deny that there was beauty among that mess as well. This pile of glass reminded me, even on my desk, of tiny grains of Alabama Gulf Coast beach sand where I collected so many of these things.
As I sorted to add them to a “non-breakable” plastic topped box I remembered some of the places I had stopped to snatch these things: a rock in a creek bed in Norcross, Georgia at a horse farm; a butterfly I vowed to wear in my hair if we bought it in Ashville, NC; A crystal ornament I couldn’t pack away at Christmas; a lock of my daughter’s blonde hair tied in mesh; shale looking items and sticks from the beach (because those are more rare there than shells); a paper American flag; a cork from our first anniversary.
We may think things will make us happy. Yes, these did, somehow, but they cannot replace the memories of the moments that go with them.
I culled a few shells. Perfect, hand picked, store bought shells I rescued from our beach house the week before my mother sold it with everything in it. I also took the less perfect ones I would often add to her “decor” collection, remembering the coolness of the water on my feet as I would search for them at the water’s edge. She probably doesn’t remember what catalog she bought those from. But I remember every creak, every uneven tile in the beach house floor when I look at these. I remember the home of my childhood that proceeded the newer version. The sleeping porch, the spiral stair, the wood balconies. The humming of my grandmother, the unusual softness of my grandfather’s fingers as he swirled his cane while rocking in his rocker. All of those memories simply triggered by a large rock my daughter, now 20, painted on a day when it was too cold to go outside when we lived there along the water’s edge in Gulf Shores. (We would also paint hermit crabs and release them in the bay across the street). I am pleased to discover I do draw a limit in my treasure collection.
Which brings me back to the lesson of things. None of these were elaborate gifts, jewels or shiny treasures. Even the rattle is coated in black. They are mere triggers for the memories that I hold dear.
I could toss them. But for now, I’ll just move them to a safer place. After all, the article I wrote just before this one was all about USING your treasures, making them a part of your every day life.
Looks like I’ll just have to keep the cat out of the china closet, because if I have it, I’m gonna start using it and quit saving it for that someday that might just never come.
Have a blessed, wonderful happymess ~memory making life!