The Stuff of Which Memories are Made
Three full-size moving trucks were parked in the driveway next door and in front of my house for a full day and then the next. The movers were swiftly packing and hauling the belongings of a family of six who were transitioning to a bigger house in our same neighborhood. I am sorry to see them go — their children are adorable — but I am flabbergasted by the enormous number of things they carried with them and the things they left behind in garbage bags and piles for give aways and throw aways.
Like most of us, they have a heck of a lot of stuff.
My friend Lorraine lives in New York on the Upper West Side in a beautiful building with an ornate lobby and a generously cheerful doorman. Her apartment, however, is miniscule. Every time — and I mean every time — she or her husband buy something, she has to throw or give something of comparable heft and volume away. What comes in must be compensated by what goes out. It’s as if she is on a materialism diet. And I feel that may not be a bad way to live. It keeps you honest about your accumulation.
I have seen those hoarder reality shows and they give me the creeps. Over the years, I have also listened to conversations at parties, fundraisers and awkward gatherings where people discuss their collections. The way people talk about their Lladro statues or their record albums and the lengths they go to find and acquire them makes me feel as if I am missing the gene for collecting, and they have gotten an extra dose.
I was at a seminar recently where a woman announced she collected cars. She went on to say these were not toy cars of the put-on-your-desk-and-admire variety. These were life-sized, zoom zoom automobiles. I tried to hide my shock but probably did not do such a good job at nonchalance. She spent several minutes justifying herself quite defensively saying it was what she liked to do, it did not harm anyone, and so what? And if she wants and can afford a dozen vintage and current automobiles with her name on the title, then who am I to judge?
I have deliberately gone through life not accumulating one kind of something, and perhaps that makes me odd. I gather it is because I have spent so many years buying for necessity — the filling-the-cave sort of supplies needed for a growing family who ate more, destroyed more and grew out of more than I could have ever anticipated.
I occasionally bought things I loved for their beauty alone, not their functionality — the ceramic turquoise mask I have on the fireplace mantle, the sculptures, the paintings. But I was not one to spend precious time at flea markets looking for Betty Boop cookie jars or antique mirrors. That is not to say I do not love a good flea market. I do love touching the history and hearing the stories, but I would shop for what was needed—a chair for the basement, a desk for one of the boys’ campus apartments, a chest for magazines or throw blankets.
I was also lucky enough to inherit so many incandescently beautiful treasures from my late mother, who cultivated a taste for enduring and classic accoutrements that I always felt surrounded by abundance.
Spring is the time when we are supposed to be cleaning and purging, casting off what is no longer useful.
And I have done some of that.
But I keep the things I love and I love the things I keep. I love the yellow vase that was my mother’s. I love the fedora that was my father’s. I love all the lovingly forged art projects that my sons made when they were little — the bright green bowl Weldon made that is a tad lopsided, the wooden picture frame from Brendan, the framed sketch from Colin.
I guess I am a collector, though I resist that label. I do not pursue the purchase of a certain kind of whatever for the sake of collecting 1,000 whatevers. I slowly became surrounded by the objects naturally accrued in the longevity of a family’s history. I revere each talisman for the story that resonates with its presence. The things I love and the things I keep are marked with the history of my family. And it is all good stuff.Edit Module