Artifacts to Memories: Things I Can’t Let Go




There is a lot of stuff in my life. I was hoping for a more delicate term, but “stuff” seems apt. Gifts, purchases, hand-me-downs and inheritances. Sixty-four years worth of accumulated belongings. Enough to divide into several categories.

There are the things I hold on to for their sentimental value. Ranging from drawings and cards that my young daughters made more than thirty years ago, to photographs, to little gifts from friends and family, to my very first hard-cover chapter book, to my dining room table. The table was a junk store find that my Dad brought home, that was used as our clothes-folding table and extra-seating-at-holiday-time table for most of my life. Then, moved out to the garage, it was my brother David’s work and party table (the surface gained a few cigarette burns and saw marks from that phase), my sister Sheila’s table to relax with a book and a beverage…and finally my dining room table.

There are things I keep because they are necessary, or because they seem necessary to me. Most of my clothing fits this category…but so do many books, plants, baskets, candles, art supplies, art work, and a large collection of flat, round stones. I know there is too much. I go through periods of purging and paring down. These “necessities” are spared, because the thought of losing them gives me heart palpitations.

Then, there are the items I hold on to, because of an – often unrealistic – idea of the person I would like to be. A collection of beautiful yarn waits, in a basket with crochet hooks and scissors, for the day when I am transformed back into the woman I used to be: a young mother, making gifts and treasures from bits of yarn. Other baskets, boxes and suitcases hold fabrics, embroidery floss, needlepoint canvas, rug-making tools and accessories, and quilt squares. My life doesn’t have room for the activities associated with all of this “stuff,” but I can’t give up on the idea that it will.

That young woman that I was, along with a Katherine Hepburn/Jo March/Martha Stewart-esque vision of a person I would like to be are evident in excesses throughout my house, from bookshelves to closets to kitchen cupboards. I would like to be someone who drinks tea, does yoga, listens to cool jazz, wears hats, raises chickens, grows all of her own food, reads the classics, and hosts lovely dinner parties…including trifle for dessert. I am not, but many of my belonging would lead one to think so.

That is the crux of the problem, when faced with getting rid of things I don’t use. I love that young woman that I used to be, with a dozen projects going and a whole lifetime ahead to finish them. I can’t seem to let go of her, yet. I still picture myself with chickens and a big garden, doing yoga, jazz music coming from the stereo, James Joyce on my nightstand. Until I give up on the person I was, and the person I want to be, I can hardly give up her accessories!


4 responses »

  1. I concur Cindy. I have accumulated a wardrobe for a life I hoped to have – never happened. And art materials and equipment needed for the time when I could finally do art full time. I’m chucking the clothes but still haven’t given up on the art intentions. Life has a way of getting in the way!!

  2. I held on to a pair of old jean cutoffs that were so old and worn that they were all but threadbare.. but they represented so many memories, great ones, as well as when i was ‘most fit’ and lean with nothing sagging… and eventually i tossed them… but it was definitely a ‘security blanket’ feeling to hold on to that pair of rags!

    we all have dreams and things that we’d like to be, wish we could be, etc… but it is also in our power to make certain things happen.. the question is, ‘do we really really want it, or it is just something we enjoy wishing for… ‘ if we really really want it, then we deserve to try to make it happen – if only for a week or so just to try it on and see how it feels.. that different skin.. different job..

    • I can readily identify with your old jean cutoffs, Lisa! I have a pair of old, raggedy shoes that hold memories for me, of the person that i was when they were new. I’ve had to, with age and circumstance, had to let many dreams and wishes go. It is sad, but freeing, too. I hold on to the ones that still seem viable, and important…at least for now. Thank you, as always, for your kind words and fresh perspective!

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