Saturday, July 16, 2011

All this Stuff

Perhaps it’s an age thing—like talking about our health issues and comforting each other over the passing of yet another friend. Hardly a day passes without a golfing partner, neighbor or long time friend saying something like “I know I should get rid of some of the stuff in my closet”—or garage, or cabinets, or attic, or basement. She never hears an argument from me.

A dear friend, recently widowed, found herself faced with the need to dispose of saws, drills, hammers, every kind of nail or screw imaginable, and a myriad of tools she couldn’t identify. In preparation for a yard sale, she spent hours sorting through what had been accumulated over decades of do-it-himself projects. “He bought this drill at a rummage sale years ago. I remember how excited he was at getting such a good buy,” she told me. “That’s probably why there are so many duplicates here.” Her shoulders drooped and she said. “I just wish I didn’t have to deal with all this.”

Those are words I’m determined neither my husband nor my children will utter when I am no longer around. We had our own garage sale when we moved from our home after thirty-four years. Ruthlessly, we separated the needed-and-wanted from the nice-to-have but not needed. When we moved into an apartment we had a place for everything and very little to put into the provided storeroom. I felt free and unencumbered.

Last year I gave myself permission to take my mother’s elegant one-hundred-plus pieces of china to a resale store. I’d had the movers pack it for shipping when we moved from the house. Neither I nor my daughter or daughter-in-law would have occasion to use it in today’s casual entertaining environment. I did keep some silver and crystal. I have plenty of room in the buffet, I reasoned to myself.

But with a fresh vision of all those tools, I used the occasion of a family gathering to cover the dining room table with silver candy dishes, serving trays, and crystal salad bowls. “Okay, girls. Look this stuff over. If you want anything, take it now, because I’m going to take what’s left to the resale shop.”

“Were these wedding gifts?” my daughter-in-law asked.

“Yes. Everything here is over fifty-four years old.”

“Mom, I remember these trays…we put the Christmas cookies on them.”

I knew what was coming. Our sentimental daughter looked at the table and saw memories. Patti, our daughter-in-law, saw items that required hand-washing and silver polishing. She left empty handed. Laurie packed up what she couldn’t bear to leave behind.

Somehow I know years from now the day will come when Laurie and her friends will be saying to each other, “We really need to get rid of stuff.”  But before then, I’m determined she won’t be saying, “I wish I didn’t have to deal with all of Mom’s stuff.”