We’ve spent the past several months moving and moving requires one to go through all the “stuff”. Stuff accumulated throughout a lifetime, stuff passed down from previous generations, stuff used for raising a family. A lot of stuff is just that – stuff. Décor items that fit the whim or the period, dishes and appliances that seemed like a good idea at the time, pictures and pictures and pictures (With the use of phone cameras will today’s young people even have boxes of pictures? Not now, that’s another blog topic). So, there’s stuff, the stuff that goes in garage sales or gets donated to a charity, but then there’s also a different kind of stuff: stuff that reflects a life, stuff that recalls a memory.
When my dad died almost 30 years ago, I asked my mom for a few special things: his leatherworking tools, his black and yellow plaid jacket, and his wool Alaska-style sweater. I hung the jacket and sweater in my closet and for years I found some comfort seeing them there. Then the day came when I realized they were not my dad, they would not bring him back, and I donated them to a local charity. The leatherworking tools are still in a cupboard in my garage and will someday be used – hopefully with his hand guiding mine. The point is, the stuff wasn’t him. My memories did not require the stuff.
As we’ve been sorting through our house, I’ve been pretty brutal about segregating the stuff we no longer want or need from the stuff we want to keep with us. We have a lot of kids’ stuff and I’ve been setting that aside to give to each of them. Items that, I believe, should mean something to them or to their future generations. There’s a push in our society to live simply and some of my kids embrace the idea. That’s great; I try to live somewhat simply myself (though you wouldn’t know it if you saw all my “stuff”). As I’ve given over some of the stuff I think is meaningful, there have been some comments about not needing that, not wanting that. I’ve felt a little saddened that some of the things I’ve saved that I thought were meaningful aren’t drawing the same level of emotional attachment from my children. I have been, frankly, a little offended. Then I thought back to my dad’s jacket and sweater and my eventual realization that they did not replace my dad. I guess the stuff I’ve saved (at least some of it) doesn’t necessarily have the same meaning for my kids (at least for some of them) and I guess that’s all right. It’s not the stuff, it’s not the house, and it’s not memorabilia that really matters. It’s the activities we share, the memories we make that create the legacy and tell the story.
Still, I am using a Sharpie to write origin information on the bottoms of some stuff. Maybe it will be meaningful to my children once I’m gone or maybe it will just make for interesting postulations at the Goodwill store after they’ve donated it.