© Another Day in the Country
My mother didn’t own much that would be deemed valuable — except for her musical instruments.
She had some interesting things but would give away the ones that I deemed interesting or might eventually want.
In her defense, perhaps I hadn’t told her.
So always looking for ways to improve my parenting skills — even though my kids are long grown — I decided to ask Jana, when she last visited, whether there was anything that I had that she might particularly want to take home with her — keepsakes.
“The silverware, for instance,” I said. “I have your grandma’s set of silver as well as the one we got when your dad and I got married. Would you like either of them?”
“Let me look at them again,” she said.
Come to think of it, there was at least one occasion when my mother did ask whether there was anything I wanted as a keepsake.
I recall looking around at her carefully preserved, severely outdated accumulation of things and saying: “Nothing big, that’s for sure, Mom. We live in a small house.”
I continued looking. There wasn’t really anything.
Ironically, there are things of hers I still keep — and use — like her old blue colander and her wooden rolling pin. I also have a cookbook she treasured. It originally belonged to my Grandma Schubert.
Jess kept a bookcase that Mom and Dad had for ages along with their living room floor lamp and bedroom furniture she had as a teenager. Mom would be pleased.
I look around my house and wonder what my kids would really want of my stuff. For sure they’d better keep all those Shutterfly books I’ve been making about family history.
As I write these words, I look around my office to gauge the accumulation of memorabilia.
Mom’s piano stands in one corner. I rarely play it, so I’ve told Clayton — who has just started music lessons — that it’s his as soon as his parents find a way to move it and a place to put it.
My dad’s cello lies across the top of the piano.
“What will I do with that when the piano goes?” I wonder.
Probably hang it on the wall.
My friend Dr. Shaw’s old L.C. Smith typewriter stands beside the piano alongside his huge, outdated, unabridged Webster’s dictionary.
I smile. That man had a way with words. His antique green, shaded desk lamp used to stand on my desk until Jessica’s cat swiped at it once too often and sent it crashing. Jess bought me a new one that looks like an antique.
Any artist knows that it’s your art work that you wonder most about. Art pieces are like your children, and you want them to be treasured, enjoyed and not just tolerated or left in a corner. They are part of you.
When I finally moved all my things from California to Kansas, I had quite a bonfire burning artwork that fell into the category of things I’d brought into the world and could now remove. I could have burned more.
I’m sure that I need another bonfire as I look at the conglomeration in the cupboards of what I’ve dubbed the art room. Some of them are pretty, charming, even lovely, but are they necessary, needed? No! I’d better find the matches.
When there were larger families, it seems to me it was easier to get rid of excess.
I remember when my Grandpa Schubert died and goods were finally divided up between nine children and 20-some grandkids, Items spread from California to the East Coast. They just went down the line, by age, and everyone took something, over and over, until it was all gone.
By contrast, I have a very short list of kids. Two is a small pool. Just thinking about it gives my sister heartburn.
Getting rid of things and stuff is such a chore. Maybe we should adopt customs from ancient Egypt and just bury the stuff with whoever died. Then again, that was just for royalty. If regular people tried it, we’d soon have an even bigger landfill problem.
Some other cultures were smart when they decided to burn money and incense to assist the dead in case there’s a hereafter, sending more burnt bills every once in awhile so they’d have at least pocket change.
Meanwhile, Jana is still checking out the silverware.
“It’s a small chest,” I coaxed. “It will fight right in your suitcase.”
It’s another day in the country, and she took my mother’s silverware. One down and more to go.