Tuesday, February 12, 2008


So often, we make decisions based on what "feels" right. And, if we've been taught by good examples and have a good moral underpinning, this method of deciding can often serve us well. But, if there are kinks in the system, they can be next to invisible to us, since they don't "feel" wrong.

I think that I conflate people with possessions. No, not in that way! The other way. It's more like treating things as people than treating people as things.

I come from a grand tradition of people who keep things. My grandfather once had to move his study to the opposite side of the house because their enormous old home was settling unevenly due to the weight of all of his books.

As they grew older and moved into smaller places, my grandparents did have to downsize, but in the end they were all left with so many treasures, things that they'd collected throughout their long lives or inherited from their own parents. Many of those things are now with my parents, or with my sisters and me.

My parents' basement is currently unnavigable, despite their also having at least one storage unit packed full of stuff somewhere. And most of it is really great stuff!

I also come from a long tradition of people who are extremely loyal, who stay married forever, who measure friendships in decades. And, in my mind, I think that these two traits have become entwined, indistinguishable, merged.

I have a friend who laughs in disbelief whenever I start a sentence with, "I stumbled across an old journal from junior high, and . . . "

I know lots of people who aren't overwhelmed by clutter. But those who have perfectly neat homes, with no overflowing files, shelves of old textbooks, labeled plastic storage bins containing elementary school perfect attendance awards, high school homecoming court sashes, and pre-marriage/kids Halloween costumes - well, I can't help but feel like they're missing something critical, like they've ripped off little pieces of themselves and discarded them along the way.

Clearly, I'm in real trouble if we're ever hit by fire or natural disaster. Without these tangible bits of my history, who on earth would I be?

Fizzle: this is where the should-be-unrelated synapse fires, the faulty logic is born. A part of my brain thinks, "He just lets things go when they get messy; this is why he's been married so many times." "This is why they go through friendships like I go through underwear." (That's just a figure of speech. Of course I still have underwear from college! You don't?)

That illogic stopped me cold when I noticed it recently, which made me work through the whole chain of thoughts until I found the break. Clearly, I attach way too much importance to stuff, but not in an I-must-have-that-Birkin-bag kind of way.

My husband would like me to add, here, that I tend to keep little bits of information in my head the same way I keep old greeting cards and address books.

In other connection news, since the ban on bubble baths has been strictly enforced, Ellie's symptoms have have cleared up. No more accidents!

The girls have my cold, though. (And I still have it too.)


Jenny said...

Hello, Sarahlynn! Glad to hear Ellie is better on the one front. Sorry to hear about the colds, though.

I can identify with the keeping of things. A few years after I married (11 years ago) I did a grand purge because our tiny apts just couldn't hold all my collections. I never parted with the family heirlooms (of which I have many and am all too happy to accumulate more), but I did lose lots of bits and pieces of my own history. It didn't bother me at first, but after a few years, it kind of made me sad. My breaking point came when a box of treasures (a clock made from wood from the old barn at Granny Peyton's and a paper towel holder made by cousin David as a wedding gift) ended up being sent to the Salvation Army. Had we not been living in suburban DC at the time I would have retrieved them, but I had no idea where they might be.

After quitting work to be a housewife, I slowly started keeping things again -- greeting cards, letters (I still cannot believe I threw out letters Aunts Cressa and Pauline wrote me when I was a teen!), etc. How could I be so heartless and utilitarian??? Thank God my sentimental side has returned. I am so thankful to have the time and space to maintain my collections.

I have a BA in history and am always excited to stumble upon or receive anything old. This past summer Houghston was digging around in Granny's yard, and I told him to save any potsherds or bits of brick he came across (my minor was archaeology!). I knew all provenance would be lost by his methods, but I know enough about our homestead to put the pieces together.

This kind of leads in to a question I've been wanting to ask. Did your grandfather or grandmother (my uncle and aunt) leave you with many memories of their past? Any in written form? I have a copy of the little book your grandmother wrote about the homestead. I've always wanted to know more about their lives. Your grandfather was so generous to my father and my childhood on that little farm of his was idyllic. I would love to know more about it's history.

sarah said...

I love that "...a grand tradition of keeping things" I'm going to start using that to describe my father.

ccw said...

I find I get less sentimental with each big cleaning. I still keep a ridiulous amount of things that will probably be tossed by my kids later in life. I am hoping that they will enjoy the letters, cards, and special family things I have kept.

My in-laws keep everything. They have two 2-car garages that cannot be used. 3 of 6 bedrooms are stuffed as is the attic, most of the basement, a semi-trailer, Ryder truck, a ginormous outbuilding, and the bottom of their large business building. I thought my family was bad but no one I know can hold a candle to them. It is crazy!

Sarahlynn said...

Jenny, email sent!

Sarah, I love the word "grand." It makes everything sound better!

CCW, your in-laws make my parents sound almost normal!

Anonymous said...

Oh, me too.