When my brother and I were young, for a while it felt like we were always going to funerals. Be it for (Great-Great) Aunt Liz, or (Great-Great) Uncle Al, or when I was three, for my Grandpa George (the dog’s name, not his. Obviously).
From a child’s perspective we saw what it was like to grieve and to celebrate life. The family would get together, break bread, have some libations and share stories — most of which had my dad and his brothers laughing so hard they could hardly contain themselves. The stories were never just about the person whose time had come; they were always about the family and about the times well before my brother and I were even a thought.
After our good Catholic celebration of life (we’re Italian after all), it was time to get down to business with going through households memories that were left behind.
When my Great Grandmother passed away, my grandmother and her sons were left in charge of going through her memories, or things. This woman lived a good long life, but even with a will and estate plan in place, there were still all decades of memories to be dealt with. A day or so after the funeral everyone gathered at her house and start figuring out who would take what if it wasn’t already granted in the will. I think I was about 11 at the time, but I remember this one closet in the living room full with stuff. There were shoeboxes filled with black and white photos and a plethora of other things that hadn’t been touched in decades.
Years go by, as they do, and more family left us. Which meant more memories had to be sifted through, divvied up and distributed, or just simply donated. Keep in mind this is much easier when you have close relationships with the people who pass. But then, you’re still guessing what was important to them and in turn becomes important to you.
When chatting with my Uncle D about this, I asked him what he remembered about going through great-grandma’s things. From his perspective, things only have importance of value when the person has a memory to go with it.
This makes a lot of sense, when you come to think of it.
If I saw my grandmother using a particular thing. Then I’d find it valuable while others would not. For one of my uncles, it was the 5-piece bedroom set. For my dad, it was the ice cream scoop. While my uncle has long since departed with the bedroom set, my dad still has his ice cream scoop and he couldn’t be happier. Every time he scoops out some ice cream, he gets pleasure in the fact that the scooper belonged to his grandparents and he remembers the ice cream served up during the cold San Francisco summers. I’m also certain, knowing my father, he has a fond appreciation for the mechanics of this particular scooper.
Since minimalism is a hot topic in the McKinney household right now, I started thinking about all of the crap we (err… I) still have to go through and what is important to keep or what needs to be tossed. My children will likely have no interest in my boxes upon boxes of memories stored in the garage — because they are my memories and not my memories with their father, but memories of a life long past that existed well before any of them were here. Plus, since all these memories — literally, crap. We’re talking photos, old concert stubs, ski passes, gym passes. Basically whatnots and do-dads — are boxed up, my boys will never see me using or admiring these things so they’ll never have an emotional connection to them.
While I’ll likely be tossing most of these memories, or finding something crafty, yet minimalist to do with them, you can bet that I’ll be grabbing first dibs on that ice cream scooper.