My life has been filled with a ton of exciting happy things lately, but there have been a few sad, unsettling changes, including the death of my wonderful Aunt Katherine. I wanted to write a story about the people I love who are no longer around to hug, and to do so, I focused on Secret #1: Focus on Tangible Things.
Let me tell you something, friend. Writing this essay was not easy, and I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I typed. In retrospect, this topic is a little too close and I feel a little too sad to craft the perfect essay. But since writing is often about the effort rather than the result, I want to share with you here.
That's my girl.
This vintage Brownie-inspired garbage can has been by my (bed)side ever since I paid $2.50 for her at a thrift store named Second Chance during my junior year in college. I would tell you how many years I’ve had her except that makes me way older than I want to be.
I don't think she's all that pretty, and she certainly doesn't add much to the decor of my bedroom. But I love her for all the reasons that I purchased her: she’s old, cheerful, and unique.
I can't say that hanging on to a past-its-prime garbage can for this long is all my fault. It’s genetic. I come from a family of hoardersItalian sentimentalists. We love old stuff that belonged to strangers: vintage maps, formal living room chairs, and even our house (it was built in 1899). And we especially love old stuff that belonged to people we love: Grandpa’s toolboxes, Nonni’s pearls, Great Aunt Mary’s jewelry, and so many more.
Recently, my dad had to sell his family’s home, the home where he and his two sisters grew up, the only home the family had ever lived in together. I knew that he had been combing through the house for years, searching for treasures to bring home and donating the rest. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that process was.
When I stepped into my parents’ garage, it was like stepping back into that house. There were marble endtables in perfect condition, the cutest baby chair of all-time, 70s style glasses commemorating the 12 days of Christmas, the decorative tin artwork that my grandfather crafted, and gifts from relatives who lived way before my time. The garage was packed to the gills with stuff. And with memories.
The thing about stuff is that you can’t keep it all. (Even though I try my darndest!) Standing in that garage, I felt like they were all standing there with me. I don’t want to let that feeling go.
Don’t get me wrong—while I adore my funny little Brownie garbage can, it isn’t nearly as important to me as my grandparents’ record player cabinet. And getting rid of my garbage can still won’t allow me to cram the entire contents of the garage into my small NYC apartment, so I know that there are a slew of tough decisions to come for everyone in my family.
I need to keep reminding myself that stuff isn’t people.
Except when it is.
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