My grandparents saved everything. Cardboard boxes. Bits of wire. Letters from long dead relatives. Souvenir decks of cards. Every article I ever wrote. They also collected. Bennington Rockinham pottery. Washboards. Butter molds. Kentucky rifles. Baskets. Pocket watches. And clocks. I grew up in a house that ticked, cockooed, bonged and chimed every fifteen minutes.

That sound for me is like the beat of a heart. But when I brought a clanking, ticking antique clock into this house to put on the mantle, Mitch about had a sensory integration meltdown. Give it two weeks, I said. If you still hear it, I won't wind it. It hasn't been a problem.

For the last couple of months, we've been cleaning out my parents' basement, where my grandparents lived for the last 15 years of their lives. And where my mother staged her own antique business after they died. We've found tax and buisness records from the 1960s. The title to my grandfather's lime-green Pinto. The letters my father wrote my mother when he was in the Army. His discharge papers. My Nixon buttons. (I was an 11-year-old conservative idealist, what can I say?) Bags of burlap. Enough burlap to circumnavigate the globe. Maybe more. Enormous boxes of photos. Baby pictures of my mom. The navy blue silk dress my grandmother wore when she married my grandfather. A dress I wore in the third grade. Old, well-used Bibles.

Much of it is just stuff. But because it passed through the hands of people we've loved, some of it has an animus. Like the doll house my grandfather built for me that my mother painted and that my grandmother furnished and decorated. (My grandmother made a miniature canopy bed from four sharpend pencils--painted white--two pieces of styrofoam, some lace and fabric remnants. So cute.) Even as a child I was overwhelmed by this gift, this collective act of love. I played with it some, but loved more than anything to rearrange the furniture, to put it in order.

Unfortunately that doll house suffered some natural disasters over the years. A cat I had developed an affinity for crawling through the windows to relieve herself on the grand piano. Seriously. She shat on the Steinway. Then my mother let my nephews play with it. When I saw the devastation in the aftermath, I was aghast. "They must have been playing war games," Mom said.

In my Mary Poppins house!

Yesterday I gave the house a good dusting and washed it down with Murphy's. I marveled at the plate rail in the kitchen that my grandfather had grooved to accommodate miniature plates. The tiny baseboards throughout the house. The little broom and dust mop my grandmother made. The itty bitty towels cut from old wash cloths. The piles of broken furniture.

We're giving the house away this week. It's a fixer-upper for sure. I hope they will love it. I sure felt loved having it.


Comments (1) -

May 12. 2010 23:43

Deborah Robson

Objects do carry memories. Some can be retained in photos; I'm about to donate some family textiles to the CSU collection.

Deborah Robson |

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