Thursday, November 13, 2014

Things That Have Value, Things That Don't

The purge to end all purges continues. If it's not nailed down or registering a steady pulse, out it goes.

When I'm in robo-purge mode, I can be nothing short of dangerous. The kids are nervous though I've assured them again and gain that I'm doing nothing with the things we actually use. Even Dave is walking around with an alarmed look on his face.  But here's my take: Why box up and move things you did not need in the old house, will not need in the new house, did not, in point of fact, even know that you owned?

Once again, I am amazed, confused, perplexed, etc. that there is any stuff left to deal with. Forget the Forty Bags in Forty Days deal -- we've been hauling it away by the truckload. I'm guessing 8-10 truckloads so far.

Dare I say it? We are near the end.

I have tackled every room. I have tackled every closet save two. I have some stuff on hooks behind a door to peruse. There may be a stray box or two in the dusty recesses of the attic (which, for the record, are no longer dusty, really. I've been spending some quality time with ye olde shop vac).

We are near the end.

I could write an epic post covering nothing but the books. Oh, the books! As I excavated one closet, I hit the mother-lode. Here is a rough tally:

 -- Books that I owned multiple copies of: 1984 - five copies, War of the Worlds - four copies, Hamlet - three copies, For Whom the Bell Tolls - three copies. And the list goes on.

-- Books I have recently purchased, but in fact already owned: Moby Dick, Pride and Prejudice, The Scarlet Letter, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls. And the list goes on.

-- Books I've recently checked out of the library, but already own -- The Great Gatsby. Actually, there were so many of these, I've lost track.

-- Book I do not need to purchase next year: Tess of the D'urbervilles.

The good news is that I found a whole stash I'm ready to hand over to Tim: Mere Christianity, Exodus, Lord of the Flies, Utopia.

The boy is a bookworm just like his Mama.

Of course I get all philosophical about stuff and its true cost,  a cost far beyond the retail price. Stuff, stuff, stuff. We buy it, we haul it, we store it, we move it , we rearrange it, we re-store it, we loan it, we recover it, sometimes we even have to insure it.

As I sort, I consider what has value to me. I recently opened two boxes of crystal and china I inherited from my grandmother. I have such fond memories of meals we shared with Nana. Let me tell you, that woman could rock a pot roast. But never in the more than thirty years I knew my beloved Nana did I ever see fine china or crystal on her table. So I look at these items, and I know they are old, and I know that they belonged to a person I loved with all my heart . . . and they mean nothing to me.

Nine months out of the year, I get out of bed and put on a robe that belonged to my grandmother. That means something to me. I remember her wearing it. In the disorganized pile of papers I call a recipe box, I have two priceless treasures -- Nan's recipe for cream of broccoli soup and her recipe for that rockin' pot roast. The recipes are written in her looping, distinctive script and if the house caught fire they'd be high on the list of things I'd grab once my husband and children were safe. I have a picture taken of Nan and me at Christmas 1994, a mere four weeks before she died. It may be the only photo I have of the two of us. Nan looks fabulous, just amazing. The picture matters.

Scattered throughout the house I have Nan's dining room chairs. I recovered them years ago. I thought I'd begin by removing the worn fabric. And under it I found another chair cover. And then another.. And then another,. And then another. The final fabric was a traditional, rather formal stripe in maroons and golds and every chair looked great except for the armchair that I'm guessing was my grandfather's. His chair was frayed. And somehow looking through those fabric swatches and seeing the tears and stains gave me such a connection with this dear woman who lived at a very different era (the depression, World War II), yet toiled at the very things I found myself doing -- working to bring order and beauty to a dining room.

Nana was a writer, so that, of course, makes her "snooper duper" (in Ainsley's words). Like the robe and the recipes, when I write I like to think of Nana. I picture myself as one of a line of Regans who have found joy and solace in putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard. In each branch of the Regan family, there's a cousin especially drawn to the written word -- my cousin Gary, my cousin Anne Marie, and myself -- all three of us writers and teachers of writing, in some form or fashion.

Nan had an agent in New York, wrote an advice column under the pen name Pat Lane, and authored quite a few published love stories. My dad has shared that she would regularly gather with other writers in her Detroit neighborhood to share and critique their work. They called themselves The Inkslingers.

I love it and just may consider renaming my blog.

When we were teenagers, Nan pulled out some of her romance magazines and showed my sisters and me some of her work.

"He said he loved Susan, so why was he seen kissing Martha?"

So -- roughly -- read the cover of one of the magazines. We howled with laughter and scratched our heads that our Grandmother wrote romance stories! 

As we packed up Nan's condominium after she died, I found pieces of half-finished stories in a notebook here, on a scrap of paper there. I found a list written in that same looping, distinctive script that read "Things I'd do if age didn't matter." The first item on the list was "Become a published author."

She was a published author, but more than that she was funny and smart, beautiful and kind. She always smelled great. If I don't fully value the china and the crystal, I fully recognize the real treasures she brought into my life.

I am not against things, Lord knows. In fact when you're moving into a new house, you invest an inordinate amount of time thinking about a host of things -- blinds and trash cans, linens and bathroom vanities, ceiling fans and dining room tables. Ultimately, though, things matter because of the people they serve, because of the memories forged around them.

As the purge goes on, here's hoping I can keep this in mind.


Kris said...

I love this post, so much! I laughed about the books - I'm always looking for one or finding one I didn't realize I had or buying one because I think we don't have it and then finding another one.... endless! But the stuff about your Nan - it made me think of my own grandmother and I smiled and missed her all the more.

yugioh123 said...

Send me copies of those recipes, please! And if those chairs on the toss list, I'll take them!

Kelly Dolin said...

Who are you, yugioh 123? The chairs are staying.