We all do. We accumulate stuff. We get rid of stuff. We get more stuff to replace the stuff we got rid of and thought we would never need. Then we do it all again. Cha cha cha.
I look around the loft and see the things that have travelled with me over the past forty plus years. That does not mean they are the same things but could be some of the things I took with me when I left home at age 21, and some are replacements of those things I let go of along the way, only to find them, or something closely related, and acquired once again. My books have always been the things that I hang on to. My children’s books and the books that belonged to my children have always been part of my home. There are pieces of my childhood home in New York that live with us now. When my mother died suddenly almost nine years ago, my sister and I had the enormous task of packing up her apartment of 58 years, where we had grown up in, where we shared a room, and where my mother had told me repeatedly when I would call her almost nightly, that she was busy “cleaning stuff out so you won’t have to when I’m gone”. I always said to her “don’t rush off” when she would proclaim that she was sorting through things and discarding. When the time came for her to “rush off”, it became clear to us that most things never left Apartment 5G. It was an interesting dichotomy of character. She and my father had come to New York as teenagers and met as young adults. Both left with their parents and some of the family posssessions that they were able to take with them on short notice. My maternal grandparents were able to take more furniture and dishes and valuable items. My paternal grandparents, who had much less, brought less. Some of both of their possessions have made their way into our own homes. Despite the life lesson that you must travel with your memories because possessions don’t mean much when your life means more, my parents accumulated their share of things. My sister and I went through much of our parents items and made piles of those things that we might want to take with us. We were very good about sharing and dividing which had not been my strong suit as a big sister growing up. I was around twelve when I realized that if I had a candy bar, sharing it actually meant that if I gave my sister a bite, I had fulfilled the contract. As she studied to become an attorney, I often think that there must be some case law that might negate my negotiations. We were long into adulthood and both had our own homes which were furnished and uberfurnished and we didn’t need anything more. Sentimentality and practicality came to an impasse. I clearly remember looking at my pile and taking a few things and remarking “well, they were mine for the last hour, I can now let them go”. I have record albums of Broadway shows that we listened to repeatedly. I don’t have a turntable but that doesn’t matter, until I think I want to hear them. They keep company with the CDs my FHB and I have gathered between us. Yes, we have heard of iTunes and YouTube and yet the racks of CDs remain, to collect dust. I have half of a collection of 36 place settings from my maternal grandmother. She was quite the hostess I would imagine. I have two sets of silverware that could easily be used with the 18 place settings. I also have a set that I wanted and thought I needed many years ago. Moving multiple times meant rearranging and disgarding furnishing that “don’t go” with other things. The things I thought I must have, sit idle and are shifted around to be used on Thanksgiving. Life is more casual and most millennials don’t want china and silverware, but would rather have technology and minimalism, until they want to furnish their place with things they need and must have. It is a cycle that the cave people probably started as they hunted and gathered and kept up with the Jones of their times. I feel at times the need to purge and offer things to the children who politely tell me they are “fine” and so I have begun placing things of lesser value (to me) in a communal spot in the loft for others to pick and take with them. They aren’t my family but neighbors who might find a treasure that I think of as an inheritance I am willing to share right now, until I find I need it and buy another one. The cycle and recycle of life.