Stuff of Memories

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Yes, but the things can be a part of the moments!

The Christmas decorations came down this week. It’s always a little sad even though the tree had passed over to the dry stage where it really needed to go. And it just made me thing of a task I’m dreading but one that will have to be done and that is cleaning out my parent’s house. I’ll get to the connection in a minute.

The sad reality is that Dad is never going to live there again. It sounds so final but there is just no way to make it work. We aren’t going to take major steps until he is gone but some things have been done. For example, we took all of Mom’s clothing to goodwill where it may find a second life. But it is the stuff they accumulated over their lives that will take the longest.

I think we’ve all made remarks about the amount of “junk” in the house. Taking down the Christmas decorations kind of made me realize that there are stories behind a lot of the stuff we possess. If you know the story, it isn’t junk but part of a memory from somewhere in your life. But since objects can’t tell stories, on their own, they can just appear to be useless clutter and junk.

When I graduated and moved out of my old hometown, I took along a few Christmas ornaments. This was something Mom suggested and I took her up on it. Included in the bunch were a couple of round pink glass spheres. Nothing fancy. And since they had aged quite a bit, they were no longer new and shiny and the color had faded.

I’m pretty sure I’ve told this story before, so I’ll keep it brief. My younger sister was born in mid December and, back in those days, they didn’t push people out of the hospital so Mom was gone for a few days. I don’t know if Dad forgot to water it or if we just got unlucky but our Christmas tree died and started to rot which added a rather unique aroma to our house. Needless to say, it was banned to an outdoor porch.

As a substitute, he came home with this sad looking silver aluminum tree which was really just a pole with some branch like things you stuck in the various holes. It looked nothing like the artificial trees of today. And, along with it, a box of these pink ornaments. Memory being what it is, I can’t recall other details like why we didn’t just take the ornaments off the dying, stinky tree but we didn’t. I don’t know if any of us were really upset – I mean we still had presents and that’s what mattered.

You may be wondering why I would even want to remember a story like that. The years have a way of taking the edges off memories leaving you with just some soft and fuzzy feelings and, for some reason, that little aluminum tree stuck with me. So I took a few of those silly pink ornaments and they’ve been on our trees ever since. Not much to look at and, at some point in the future, someone will probably just toss them not knowing the story they represent.

Most things in our lives are utilitarian. They serve some purpose like furniture to sit on or stuff to prepare food. Those may be easier to part with although even some of them can hold memories. For example, I have a cast iron pan for making corn bread – you know the one where the bread comes out looking like ears of corn. It was something Mom made with chili and she gave it to us some years ago.

Other things may serve little to no purpose but they can help trigger memories. Many of the Christmas decorations we have were gifts – some from my parents and those are special. Others were things we purchased as a young couple. I wanted to have a house full of Christmas stuff so I filled up all the mantle space I could. Again, none of these are special or have any real monetary value. But they represent a time in our lives that will never come again.

There is other stuff around the house that serves as reminders of certain times. The Christmas stuff only gets to come out once a year. It is kind of like greeting an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile. It is why it can be kind of sad to put them away.

And now I have a greater appreciation for the end quote shown below. Treasure doesn’t have to refer to monetary value.

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