I just returned from my parents’ estate sale and felt inclined to share some thoughts. We tend to collect a lot of stuff in our life. Some of this stuff is the things we used everyday. Other stuff was the things we just seem to collect, tools and nick knacks and this and that stuff. Still, others are those things we can’t seem to part with as they connect us to a memory. These are the difficult ones to deal with for those who would be the sorters and cleaners of a lifetime of collecting. Do you part with them or do you ponder them and then move on? No easy decision. Do they carry the same memory for the next generation or are they just meaningful to those who have been forced to move on? I suspect and have experienced the latter.
As I wandered through the maze of furniture and tools, pictures and plates, I was overwhelmed by the memories some of the items resurrected. I will admit, that I took a few items from the pile just because they asked me to. But something else became evident to me. It wasn’t the “stuff” that was precious to me but rather the memories they invoked. So the question is, do I need to cherish the items to hold the memory or do I cherish the memory it creates? And do I need the item to invoke the memory? I think it became obvious that with or without the item, the memory will live forever and the memory is what I need to and will keep.
Bins full of bolts reminded me of a father returning from work at the plant, his lunch box full of the bolts he cleaned from the floor at the end of a long day. A day spent supporting his family. Or the cross buck saws and the memory of dad teaching us “it’s in the pull and release, not the push” as he schooled us in the “old ways.” Or the potato masher and the image of my mother preparing a holiday feast or a meal for the threshing crews. The sewing machine that pieced together the tattered knees of our denim jeans or something as simple as the “double fudge” boiler and the savored memory of seafoam candy at Christmas. Canning jars found me back in our old kitchen watching as mom and dad prepared dozens of jars filled with tomatoes and applesauce, corn relish and pickles. The aromas of the canning filling my senses. These are the memories I will keep, even as the items that reminded me are left behind. The items are just stuff and there will come the time to leave it all go. But the memories will last long after the stuff of life is gone.
One day, even mom and dad will be gone, but their lessons and their spirit will live on and surround us with loving memories every time someone says “Remember When.”