Because my step-mother survived my father when he passed away my brother and I were given 48 hours to collect our family belongings from his home. At one point we found ourselves sitting at Dad’s desk going through silly, superficial things– his pen holder, desk drawers filled with miscellany– paper clips, empty medicine bottles, toner cartridges, a pair of cufflinks, things that he touched, considered worth keeping. We wished hard for a transference of him as we looked at them, these insignificant items, representative of something that we wanted to give us just one more tangible connection to him, now gone.
Over the years I, too have an embarrassing accumulation of odd things that I cannot seem to bring myself to discard or give away. Someone will have to do it someday if I don’t. I particularly have a huge amount of Christmas ornaments and decorations. I have most of the ones we put on our trees when my brother and I grew up. Funny little porcelain angel bells with dainty faces, a reindeer painted on a sand dollar, a partridge in a pear tree a dear friend of my mother’s made for us.
Then I have ornaments I made the first Christmas I could not spend with my family because I was married, 8 months pregnant and my doctor advised against travel. So I made ornaments. Christmas patterned-fabric wreaths fashioned from little wooden curtain rings, sequined candy canes with little holly leaf and beads, and tiny bells. Sequin-covered stocking shaped styrofoam forms with little brown pompoms to make a bear with googly eyes. Ornaments my son had made in school, at festivals, on his own, and some he and I made one year together.
Then I moved and could not find any Christmas decoration boxes, so I bought kits to make new ones. Eventually over the years I have made or accumulated enough ornaments to decorate at least three Christmas trees. So I had to go through them.
Many of them were not hard to put in the give-away box. My marriage had ended in divorce so those ornaments no longer held any joy. So many of those purchased or made later, though pretty were also non-essential because I bought them in a panic. Not panic that I would have nothing to put on a tree but panic that I could not find those I loved so much.
That proverbial “Someday” when someone will inherit these, or buy them at an estate sale they may not find hands gently holding them with loving memories. But I was a part of what they represented for me, as well as others who were so important to me. And that is what matters. Not so much the things themselves.
The memories, echoes of laughter, and loving hearts.