"It's only stuff"

These are my Grandma's Ladles. Circa 1950? They have that awesome vintage design on them-perhaps it's called a mid-century-modern Atomic Starburst? In my home we refer to that star-like shape as "dings". The sound effect from a commercial when your floor would sparkle after using a special product advertised. Back when it was still okay for a woman to feel accomplished if you made your floor sparkle.

The designs back then were "futuristic" or what was imagined the future would look like. Think- 'Jetsons' and hover cars. In that era, there was a general feeling of promise and hope for the future. There was pride for a job well done, and hard work was respectable; not something you suffered through if you weren't wealthy or smart enough to hire someone else to do it for you.

My Grandmother was a hard working woman. She had jobs in factories and cleaning hotels and also quite often when the money would allow; she got to be "just" a Mother and Wife and Homemaker. She was an amazing cook and seamstress. She taught my Mom how to sew and also tried (unsuccessfully) to teach me. My Mother died before my Grandmother. The greatest gift I ever gave my Grandmother was my son because he was her living proof that her legacy would live on. He was that part of her, that part of her daughter, to continue on in the world.

So- when Grandma died, I couldn't keep all her furniture, all her stuff, because I already had all my Mom's stuff. I kept Grandma's photos and I kept her ladles, and the coffee pot with the 'dings', and her dishes. I didn't have room for much more than that. I have so many things.....

I know that these are just things- that the things don't actually contain the memories. I know that the memories are still there if the things are gone. But in the same way you can hug your Mom or Grandma to make yourself feel good and safe- I only get to hold these things. So I want to always have them. And I want to give these things to my son so he can hold these things.

Eventually the idea came to me to have these 'dings' on my body- near me, like a hug, but forever. I knew exactly where I wanted them, and how they would look on me and how it would feel to have them placed on me. I was ready to get the tattoo with the only exception being that I didn't have any discretionary income to buy a tattoo. I knew when I got some "extra" money, what I would do with it.

I sometimes work in a big building with individual private offices and at the end of each floor are two bathrooms. Early in the morning, as I walked into the women's bathroom, I found a hundred dollar bill on the floor. I picked it up and checked to see that it was real. I checked each stall and there was no one else in the bathroom. I walked the entire floor and there was not a single person in any office. I walked back to my office and wrote a note- "If you lost something in this bathroom, please call to identify and I will be happy to return it". I taped the sign to the bathroom door and waited all day for a call that never came. When I got off work I called my tattoo artist and said "I found a hundred dollar bill on the bathroom floor- do you want it?"

I love this tattoo so much. I think it is pretty and very fitting for the area and I love that it is my ladle tattoo that I found on the bathroom floor. I know my Grandma and Mom didn't share my love of tattoos, but I feel that somehow they gifted this tattoo to me anyway.
I still love having the ladles- and the other "stuff" that I can hold in my hands and pass on to my son. I hope to raise him to be the kind of person who knows his history and values hard work and taking care of irreplaceable things.

We are moving now, into the first home that we own as a family. I have been packing and sorting and letting go of a lot of 'things'-because I can't take it all with me and I don't want to be a hoarder, or pack rat. We have been in our rented house for 8 years and have acquired a lot of stuff. But there are still so many things that I don't want to get rid of. Like the ladles. And the dishes. I decided to quit waiting "till I grow up" to use Grandma's dishes. After all, I am 42 years old and I would derive so much pleasure from seeing and touching her things every day. So I pulled the dishes out of the attic to assess what I had and prepare them to take to our new home.
When I picked up the box it rattled like an evil maraca. When I opened the box, this is what I found:
The sadness that came over me was so overwhelming. I know, they are just things. I know it shouldn't matter. Yet, I feel so sad. Adding to this sadness is the fact that TODAY is my Mother's birthday, and I can't buy her a cake or give her a hug. I can't eat from her mother's plates. Almost the entire set is broken- completely broke and damaged beyond repair. Even looking at that photo makes me feel like I have been punched in the stomach. So- I have been crying on and off, over some stupid "stuff". Silly, right? I still have the memory of my Grandma- what I don't have is the idea that these things of hers were safe in my attic and there for me some day when I was grown up and ready to use them. So my advice to anyone who will listen, is: DON'T STORE THIS STUFF! Use your nice things and hold your loved ones close and hold their things often. I would have rather used these for years and eventually accidentally broken each one, than to have found them all as a broken pile of dishes to use when I grow up and deserve nice things.
And now I am consumed with this idea that I should ignore all my moving and packing obligations, and forget my financial responsibilities and go get this pattern from one of the few unbroken dishes tattooed on my body. After all, what better day than today- since it is my Mother's birthday.
I hope as I get older, I continue to have things of beauty all around me, things I can pass on to my kids. Things they will hold and enjoy and most of all- use daily. Things that will be helpful to them, not just to be packed and stored and eventually broken beyond repair.

Perhaps as the rest of this day unfolds, I will miraculously find tattoo money on the ground.

Sorry Grandma.
Happy Birthday Mom.


Anonymous said...

It's not only stuff! Karen this made me cry! I too have "things" that belonged to my Grandmother. They may seem silly to others, but to me it is like being allowed another moment to be touched by her physically when I pick up something that belonged to her or that she gave me. Anyone who does not understand this is fortunate enough to not yet have experienced true loss...

Anonymous said...

Don't be sad... Memories last forever and Grandma seems to have left plenty of those behind for you and yours. Lucky you, I never had the chance to meet any of my grandparents. Stuff happens for good reasons. I'm happy you can see past the clouds. Love from NYC

Glenn said...

I now understand K.P. I did not mean to minimize your feelings last night. That was a beautiful blog entry. I will see you at 2:30 to help you gently pack.

Heidi said...

Oh KP!!! You made me cry too. I understand exactly what you mean. When it's all you have left it hurts so bad. I'm so sorry. You'll get your tattoo. I LOVE YOU!!!

denise and efren said...

that is sad- I would cry all day too!
Maybe you can make a mosaic art piece with some of the broken plates? it may not be the same as eating on them but you can make a new thing of value to have around- I loved your story and I am going to take out a glass stove top coffee pot that belonged to my great aunt asap-

V.DUB said...

I think that was the best entry I have every read.. I can feel your emotions in every word that you write. About not using things you cherish you are so right I remember my mom had couches we couldnt sit on?
I think we need to get you that tattoo really soon love you ..........V

Anonymous said...

beautiful, k.p.

memories are ephemeral. it's the 'things' that make them real. i keep dried roses from my mother's funeral to know that she was. even though i am living proof of her existence, it's always her passing that brings her back to me.

i'm crying...

Glenn said...

KAREN !!!!! Denise and Efren "Said" " Maybe you can make a mosaic..." I have now been to IKEA with you and you showed me a table that you said you would put outside. I did Mosaic tables and sold them for a living. I KNOW HOW !!!! Don't throw away a shard of those broken memories! I , as a house warming gift to you and the boys, all three of them now, AM GOING TO MAKE ART FOR YOU AND YOUR NEW HOME IN THE NAME OF FUNISIM ! I love you. Will you be to heart broken to see the shards as art ??? Best that they not "be trash." Let me know. Fun is the path to enlightenment! PEAS 2 EWE

Miss K.P.-Ness said...

Sounds fabulous GleNN
I have saved the shards and would love some art. I wanted to make a mosaic and dont know how. IT will be a wonderful addition to "Fun zone East"
Peas and Fluff
Miss Ness

Melissa said...

I think the tattoos are way better than the dishes themselves, but I seem to be in the minority here. Dishes break, and they would have eventually. And you would have felt horrible - and maybe angry - many times over, each time you broke one, or Duke broke one, or Christopher. You got it all over with in one horrible, gut-wrenching afternoon. And then, like you the phoenix that you are, you soared out of the ashes and turned your tragedy into something so very much more beautiful - and unbreakable. I didn't cry when I read this. I felt proud of you. Am I a total weirdo or what? And while I haven't lost my mother yet, I have lost someone very, very close to me, and I know it hurts like fucking hell.

Anonymous said...

You are such an amazing person!!!!!!