How do you remember? Is through sheer memory recall to days and situations and events years in the past? Or perhaps through objects collected over the years that become place holders for memories?
This morning I spent cleaning part of my parents basement – mostly going through stuff they had saved to see if any of it was going to be of interest to either myself or my sister. We’ve being doing these sort of activities – “Do you want this?” “Will you ever use this?” “If you don’t want it, I am going to get rid of it” – more of late as my sister gets ready to move into her new house, and as my parents are trying to declutter some of the house.
It is amazing the accumulation of objects over their lives thus far (and equally amazing is the stuff I realized they have saved of mine from when I was a kid!) I tend to find myself more easily discarding things of mine that I haven’t used or wore in awhile, but I lean towards holding onto the “old” stuff much more. Perhaps its holding onto the memory of my grandparents, who passed away when I was 14 and 17 years old, respectively. My grandfather was an avid fisherman. I probably have fished once or twice in my life, and it was with him, up in my Mom’s hometown. He caught many a Walleye Pike, but three of them were taxidermied and mounted years ago. And guess who has dibs on them?
They are a reminder to me of who he was and something he was passionate about. Every time I look at them, it takes me back to Bagley, MN; to my grandparents immaculate house, to the basement where I would sit and type on my grandpa’s old typewriter, to my grandfather’s garage/workspace where my sister and I would play when we weren’t driving around and around the block in the golf cart. See what memories those fish hold, and I wasn’t even around when they were caught and mounted?
Similarly, my mom has kept a lot of things of my grandmother’s- her cookware and serving dishes, her baking things, and her lefse griddle (if you’ve never heard of or tasted lefse, you need to check out this bakery and order yourself some – and some almond cookies, too!). I can practically smell how warm and inviting and delicious her kitchen always smelled when we first arrive to visit. An awesome cook and an amazing baker, she left a legacy in her recipes. Her kitchen was also the meeting place when we would visit – between our family and my grandparents friends and my moms childhood friends who still lived in the area, Nana’s kitchen was the focal point.
It is an interesting phenomenon to me, my ability to donate or discard things of mine that I don’t deem necessary to keep, but things that are tied to a previous part of my life, when certain people were still with us but who have since passed away, it is a vastly different scenario. I recently was in the attic and came across a set of books by Alexandra Day (the Good Dog Carl series). Three of the four I have were given to me as a child by my own parents. I went through them, reading the inscriptions, and came to Carl’s Christmas, and saw my Nana’s handwriting. Instant tears. Geez, I tear up just remembering it.
I suppose we tie our memories to objects in an effort to hold onto that time, or situation, or person. There is a guilt associated with getting rid of things that were parents or grandparents possessions. Almost as if by discarding the object, the memory might go with it, or that a piece of that individual or event will be gone too. It seems too final. And so, its easier to hold on. But some things, really, do we use them? Do we have any use for them (I would venture not, if its been sitting on a shelf for a number of years, it might actually have been forgotten about entirely until the task of de-cluttering begins…)? Do we not trust ourselves to remember without something to prompt us? Or are we simply afraid if we let go of the objects, it means we are letting go of the person as well?
“If heaven was a town it would be my town
On a summer day in 1985
And everything I wanted was out there waiting
And everyone I loved was still alive.”
-Andy Griggs, If Heaven