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Things

if I were me
I do not have very many precious mementos from my childhood left intact anymore. My mementos are either non-precious things I have somehow managed to hold onto in spite of having only half-warm feelings for them, or have been damaged or broken in spite of my best efforts.

Example of the latter: My tiny glass elephant, hand-blown by a family friend when I was 5 and given to me by my aunt, lost an ear to Kayla's childhood. I found that E6000 adhesive actually glues glass back together, but it's still not quite right. That's probably my oldest artifact that I actually remember, shy of a few shabby stuffed animals and some over-handled books.

I do not particularly mind not having many artifacts--I'm trying to declutter my life, not add to it--but there are two things that bother me.

The first is: I have no reserves. Every physical item of my childhood is either gone or in my possession. My dad kept nothing of me, as far as I know; and my mom kept nothing of me, for certain, as she is a relentless declutterer and has moved so many times that I know she has nothing except pictures, and not very many of them, either. Aunts and grandparents and cousins who might have kept a few things have returned all these things to me at some point, either to mark milestones, or upon their death, or just because. It's nice of them to do that, and no, I wouldn't want a niece's stuff in my house, either, but without my parents to perform any archiving tricks, there's no well to return to. This isn't such a big deal, or a terrible thing, but I do feel sometimes that it's odd to have been excised so early from other people's houses--I mean, this all happened by my early twenties. Okay, maybe the biggest deal is that I was excised from my MOTHER's house so young. But then I look at all the little bits of my writing she saved, and all the other bits that I saved, and I think: well, I have those. And it's not even that they still exist, but here is proof positive that she gave me the space to write and be who I was.

The second thing that bothers me is that I don't have many things from some rather key people in my life. I have more items from my great-grandmother than I do from my father. In fact, I would be hard pressed to point to anything in my entire house that might have come from my father. Part of that is because he gave me so few things during the course of my life, and part of it is because the few things he did give me were kind of non-durable--a lot of faddish, plasticy toys when I was younger. He did build me a dollhouse when I was four or five, but it was.... well, it was clumsy, and second, I sacrificed it to a ceremonial fire for healing a few years back. The only other thing I kept for very long was a small stuffed moose he gave me after a hunting trip, which caused my cousin to cry when he gave it to me and not my cousin, and I have such crappy memories about that... I don't know when I got rid of that, perhaps in a fit of pique before he died, perhaps some other time, but either way, it was not a font of warm memories. I wish I had something from him--but I wish it was something FROM him, that he had wanted to give to me, that was worth keeping, so that will never change.

The other two people I don't have strong material reminders from are my maternal grandparents. I have a few things from Grandma that I love and feel are the perfect thing, and those are mainly recipe cards written in her hand; I also have her "brag books" filled with pictures of her grandchildren. Those are just right, and quite probably enough to have, and the only thing I'm sad I don't have is an artifact of her knitting. (I also wish I had the antique wooden butter bowl that belonged to her mother, but she got rid of that while she was alive, to my chagrin.) I do have her cookie jar, now that I think of it, and I need to pull that out of the cupboard and cookiefy it, preferably with her recipe for icebox cookies. So I guess I'm square there, after all.

But for my grandfather, I have so little from someone who meant so very much. I have a rose quartz he found while digging in the garden and gave to me. I have a random woven turtle box he gave me. A kerosene lantern for emergencies. And... that's it.

But I also have all the stories he gave me. Mostly the turtle stories, but also his childhood stories. Those are treasures beyond telling, and I guess--I guess those are enough. They'll feel more like enough if I ever get them out of my head and set them down on paper, but I'm also afraid they'll look paltry if I do. Not because there weren't dozens of stories, but because I only remember a few, and because I can't possibly do them justice. Without seeing them outside of me, I can pretend that there's more to them; that the memories just out of reach might swim back into view someday. And there are the memories of being told the stories: of being cuddled on his lap far past the age that it must have been comfortable to hold me, of being rocked and having my back rubbed, while he told me about turtles who mowed lawns and went to church picnics.

So, really, do I need more artifacts to appreciate that?

No--I don't.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
behindpyramids
Jan. 29th, 2012 06:05 am (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. It was really fascinating particularly because it opened up a window into something I would not have thought about. My beef has always been that there aren’t many artifacts from my parents’ past around the house, but I had never thought about how many memories are tied up in the objects I do have and how surface that value is. Important in one sense, not at all important in another.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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