Thursday, January 25, 2007

No room for more

I came home from my brother's this past weekend with a humongous tub of family memorabilia that had been in storage since we sold my dad's house after he passed away. I'm having a good time going through all the old photos that I haven't seen for quite a few years.

Most of the stuff in the huge tub had been kept forever in the bottom of the china cabinet in my dad's dining room - that's where my mom always kept the baby albums, homemade cards from us kids, the report cards and graduation certificates and all the other stuff of a family's memory.

My brother being the pragmatist (and the one paying the bill for storage) has decided that we need to finally figure out what to do with the things we haven't been able to bear to throw away or to give away. None of us has the room or the need for a dining set, or two bedroom sets, or another side chair and end table.

What do we do with these things that we grew up with; what do we do with the sentiment attached to them? Throw it away? Give it away to some faceless stranger that has no sense of the lives and stories that are a part of each piece of furniture? Will the little girl who ends up with my canopy bed care about the dreams that visited me in that bed, or how I used to hide beneath it when my parents had an argument? Will another family share Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner over our dining set and know how my mother loved that table or how my dad re-tooled it in later years as his computer desk? Do these memories matter to anyone but us? Of course they don't; they're just things after all. But knowing that doesn't help with the feelings of guilt.

My mom liked to pose photos like this one, with us lined up from eldest to littlest. According to the date on the back of the pic I was 3 and Kevin, the eldest, 13 and Brian in the middle at 11. I'm guessing it was taken at Holmdel Park where we used to go sledding and I think the dog may be Rufous (or is it Fritz?), who I don't remember but for pictures of him.

16 comments:

Mary said...

Laura, "Will the little girl who ends up with my canopy bed care about the dreams that visited me in that bed, or how I used to hide beneath it when my parents had an argument?"

Breaks my heart. I understand!

Tough time, but enjoy the memories you find, like the photo of you on the sled.

Ruth said...

I have too many items in our house that were handed down from our families, and as a sentimental person, I value them above new things. In the end though, I would treasure the pictures and the memories the most. Things have to go eventually.

Susan Gets Native said...

Of course they mean nothing to others, but what matters is that they matter to us.
Thank goodness my Mom saved every scrap of everything for me.
I feel that it is a drag sometimes when I have to find a place for the copious amount of artwork the girls make, either at school, or at the dining room table.
I love this post, Laura.

bunnygirl said...

I haven't encountered your situation yet, but I know the day will come. If you and your brother feel that getting rid of some of the furniture is your best option, you'll just have to find a way to make it meaningful.

When my stepmother's father passed away, she had no use for all his furniture. So she made inquiries at his church and they identified a woman in the congregation who had recently lost everything in a fire. Problem solved.

So maybe you can find someone who needs and deserves to have something go their way for once, and give them the things you simply can't keep?

Great pic!

LauraHinNJ said...

Ideally, wed be able to give the stuff away in a situation like Bunnygirl mentions.

Good friends of ours lost everything to a house fire last year at this time, and we were glad to loan them use of *extras* from our attic - mostly things that we had purchased for my dad while he was living with us.

The trouble is connecting with people who can put items to good use.

When we replaced our living room furniture we donated it to a group affiliated with our church that runs a used furniture store/thrift shop and also gives furniture to families in need.

I guess that's what we'll end up doing with my parents things. Wish I had the room for them here.

Dave said...

I don't have a lot of things from my parents because of living so far away from them. My Dad has passed on and Mom is 84 and having heart issues. I do have pictures, stories and lots of memories. I do like those memories.

NatureWoman said...

What fun to go through a tub of family memorabilia! I love this photo of you and your brothers!
There may be some old fashioned young couple just starting out that may appreciate your furniture. When my grandmother died that's what happened with me, my parents gave me most of her stuff - I was just starting out and so it was perfect.

vicki said...

Is it fair to comment on three posts at once? Probably not. I apologize in advance.

No one will ever have the same sentimental attachment to these things. But having spent a year divesting myself of both our own stuff, including things from when Dan and Abby were tots, and many of my mother's things I've found that I'm okay with a representative sampling and smaller items. The memories remain and photographs are a great trigger for those so keeping pictures and taking the time to organize them makes great good sense. In the end, stuff is stuff and if it's useful to someone else when it's not to you that's a good thing.
You really were the baby in the family, yes? You still look the same. :-)

I haven't read bunny part comments yet- I'm thinking the nape of the neck. That's the best part of any bunny, be it rabbit, child or lover.

I will write you an e-mail or post a bit about the 28 count piece I got hooked on in the last two weeks. I've spent the last five years knitting so flipping back to cross stitch- esp. at 28- is driving my eyes nuts. However, it's a sampler of a Frank Lloyd Wright office window and it's beautiful so I decided I needed it to go with the table and chairs- they come back from the refinishers today. The tree sampler is gorgeous- I think it would look just as lovely at a lower count. All those greens- yum. I'm having to work mine under a magnifier- talk about feeling old.

Okay- the fourth post down: It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top. (Virginia Woolf)

Done.

KGMom said...

Here's a way to make connections with people who need and can use things we cannot keep: Freecycle.
You go to that website -- http://www.freecycle.org/ -- then pick your area of the country, and join. Since it is run off Yahoo, you may need to sign up. But then you post that you have something to OFFER. I have been freecycling for several years now. It is heartbreaking to see the need of people. I have given away over 100 items ranging from furniture to books to clothing to. . .you name it.
Great thing is it keeps all our stuff out of landfills.
You asked "Will the little girl who ends up with my canopy bed care about the dreams that visited me in that bed?" Of course the answer is NO--BUT she will have her own dreams. And you will have made it possible.

Cathy said...

Oh Laura, I'm trying not to feel a little sad about this post, but at my age . . . nostalgia can sometimes take a dip into melancholy. This is really such a tender question your positing. It's so sweet of you to draw the curtain on a part of your past to let us glimpse the formation of special 'you'.

Sandy said...

You mom was a better poser than mine. We laugh about the way we are lined up like we are ready for a firing squad in most of our group photos.

Laurie said...

I can only imagine what it feels like to have to find homes for the beloved items of your childhood. But since you can't place them within the family, maybe you should try kgmom's idea?

debbie said...

this post makes me sad. my parents had this weird table from when i was very little. my parents had moved 4 times, but wouldn't get rid of it. they didn' keep it in their house. it was in the garage. they were going to get rid of it their last move. i wouldn't let them. i took and put it outside near my hottub. this wasn't an outdoor bench and the wood rotted. we tried to kkep the table together but it didn't work. i didn'thave anywhere to put it, and used till it couldn't be used anymore. it was difficult to get rid of, but the table took on a different meaning to me, and really din't feel like that table that was in my parents house anymore. does that make sense? i love that picture of the little girl on the front of the sled. Was she wearing glasses???

Dave said...

I have a sister-in-law from Honduras. When she first came to the U.S., she was surprised to see antique beds still in use. Where she comes from, beds are burned after the death of their owners.

We had a dog named Fritz when I was a little kid, too! Beagle-collie mix.

I want to second the plug for Freecycle - a great idea, with many, many active local groups in every part of the country.

LauraHinNJ said...

Dave: I think the memories are the best *stuff* although it would be nice to have something physical to remind yourself of them, you know?

I have very few of my mom's things, mostly jewelry, but those things are very special.

One of my mom's things that I never really wanted, especially right after she died, was the mirror and crystal tray that sat on my parent's dresser. I remember how I was fascinated by it when I was just little - and almost forbidden to touch it - but it was so sparkly! You know how clumsy kids are, so my mom was right to keep me from it. After she died my dad had to force it on me - something about that was just too hard to have. Strange.

Naturewoman: My brother is convinced that we ought to be able to sell the stuff on ebay to some rich city people! It's all very modern-looking in the 50's way and he says that's very popular with a certain group of people.

Vicki: Yes, stuff is stuff! We did throw some things away last weekend, so there is hope!

I was the baby - the much wished for little girl after 4 boys. My folks just kept trying for me.
;-) There's a story about my Grandma announcing my arrival to the neighborhood from our front stoop - imagine.

Would love to see your embroidery work some time and hear if those magnifying lights are as uncomfortable as they look.

Oh - you were right on the nape of the neck - that is the sweetest part of all.

KGMom: Thank you for the suggestion of Freecycle! I feel like such a dummy for not thinking of it - a friend at work uses it all the time. Keeping stuff out of landfills is a good thing in itself, and if someone might find a place for our ^treasures* it would be an extra benefit.

LauraHinNJ said...

Cathy: Really, it needn't be sad, right? I'll have all the great old photos and the memories they inspire.

Sandy: Thank you for the laugh! We have a few like that too - mostly my brothers standing around in bad suits on Easter with me like a tiny fairy down at their knee-level.

laurie: I do think she has a good idea. That or a thrift shop.

debbie: Sure, it all makes sense.

;-)

What do you have of your dad's?

I had to wear glasses forever because I was cross-eyed - I hated them!

Dave B: I have to admit that we've considered setting fire to some of this stuff.

There is something creepy about sleeping in the bed of a dead person, right?

I'm still not sure which dog that is - was hoping my brother would chime in with a name. I think it was Fritz though - and I'm surprised to see myself that close to him. In later years he used to guard the top of the staircase in our house and snap at my feet when I passed by! Mean old dog.

I've been lurking at your blog for a while and have wondered about your connection to Latino culture - is it the poetry?