A friend of mine tells me that I have a lot of “stuff.” Obviously, he's never watched those TV shows that focus on people with hoarding tendencies. What I have in no way compares to some of the profiles I have watched on those programs. There are at least 3 places where I can see directly to the floor.
I will admit to leaning toward pack-ratted-ness at times. But there is a good reason for much of this. Really! I swear!
When I was growing up, I was curious about my family and its history – especially my mother's. It seemed that much was known about my dad's heritage, and his parents were still around when I was. My mother's family wasn't. No maternal grandparents, and the aunts and uncles lived across the country...or at least in the Midwest! When you've grown up in California, Missouri is an exotic place. I have always thought it would have been cool to have more info about my mom's growing-up years. A great mystique encircled the family homestead “The Oaks” and the little I did know about the extended family that lived there made the place sound magical. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, kids – even some boarders and the occasional farm hand added to the mystery. I was there three times – once at age 6 months, once at age 3, and then when I was in the second grade when my uncle still lived on the place.
Every now and then, my mother would pull some treasure out of some hidden nook or cranny and tell me an epic tale about the “thing” and one of my uncles, or my aunt, or my great uncle. How I wished I had been able to experience them first hand and had a more personal experience of her life growing up.
I was determined that my children would have a more complete view. As a result, I saved “stuff” – at least that's what my friend calls it. All of my work papers from second, third and fourth grade are in a box in my closet. Why I have moved them around for all these years, is clear: I wanted to show my sons and daughters the things I did in school. It's not “stuff,” it's history! I also have my dress from the Senior Prom, the libretto from a summer production of You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, and my Girl Scout Uniform. My friend Cindy designed the dress, my friend Geoff was the music director of the show, and I earned my First Class Scout award in that uniform.
So now I have that box and a variety of heirlooms that I have already inherited to pass on to my kids; my kids that I don't have. What do I do? I have kept these things long enough that I feel foolish, and yet I can't bring myself to throw them away. What does one do in this situation? Keep up the history or realize that it's just “stuff” and send the papers to the recycling bin and the treasures to the thrift store? Sure, it's something I could inflict on my child, but I don't know that it's appropriate for the general public.
This summer, I’m going to my 30th high school reunion and my dad has asked me when I visit to make a list of the things I’d like to have from the house. More stuff? Do I really need the hand-made walnut tables? The hand painted cocoa set? Or the china cabinet made of 7 different kinds of redwood? No . . . but it’s my history. Who shall I share it with?