Saturday, November 24, 2012

Our Things

On a weekend dedicated to consumerism and a spend,spend,spend mentality, I was struck by the poignant contrast of loving the things you have... versus loving to have things.  

This morning I unloaded a box of treasures I brought home this past weekend from my Grammy's house.  About a year ago, my Grammy moved into an assisted living home where she is doing quite well.  She brought many of her beloved things from home with her, but the reduction in space simply didn't allow her to take everything she had curated over the years.  Like many older people, the things she had in her home were of a certain quality and style not found in homes of people of my age or means.  She had collected things over the years that meant something.  Antiques or gifts chosen for their quality, not just because they were a bargain.  Items well-loved and imbued with sentimentality.  Many things in her home had been passed down to her and carried with them memories of her childhood, in turn becoming part of my mom's memories, and mine as well.  

As we walked through her home, culled down to half-empty rooms and bare walls, I was brought back to the days I spent as a child, visiting Grammy in Virginia, coloring at an ornate marble table under strict instructions not to tip it over.  Of gazing in the giant painted mirror that hung on the wall and seemed fancier than anything I'd ever seen.  Of the cut-glass candy dish always filled with seasonal treats.  Of the bronze metal gong with a history I couldn't even remember, but knew was laced with importance.  The commissioned painting of my mom as a little girl, a luxury unknown in today's world of Instagram photos.

Sure, Grammy had moved from her home that I visited as a little girl many years ago, to be closer to our family in Tennessee.  Yet despite the new surroundings, these items still retained their memories, their spirit.  And as I walked around on the mission to find and take anything I wanted, lest it be soon donated, I felt the compulsion to take everything.  To save these items and my memories.  Certainly, my mom had already saved many of these pieces for herself and those with the most value were not going to be given away.  Yet still, I felt an acute sadness.

I always loved her books, so I was happy to find some to take home.  Despite the mold splotches and mildewed smell, I always feel that an old book should be saved.  The fact that items made of flimsy paper and thread can withstand years of use, lining a bookshelf, standing sturdily upright, is something to be celebrated.  And what happened to the days when books were considered prized possessions? - enough so to take the time to write your name in it...

In her attic, we went through treasured Christmas items, collected over the years and well-loved.  Many items were wrapped protectively in tissue, tucked away in boxes and meticulously labeled.  When she packed these up a few years ago on a cold January day, she didn't know she wouldn't be bringing them down again the following December. 

We spend so much effort and time and money buying things that make us happy.  We store things with care or display them with pride.  Yet just as often, we don't appreciate what we have.  We take for granted the abundance in our lives.  We lose interest and stop caring for the things that once made us happy.

So my message today isn't anti-shopping or anti-stuff - it's simply a reminder to remember why you buy.  There's a feeling beyond compare of finding an item that brings you true joy.  That makes you happy to spend the money you sacrificed to earn.  The things that make your house a home and the treasures you will infuse with memories for years to come.

[And to be sure this doesn't sound too sad, here's a funny picture of us visiting Grammy at her new home, where many of her treasures still surround her.  Now, there's simply a new generation to enjoy them. :)  ]

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