the stuff dreams are made of

Stuff and I get along well. I welcome stuff to my house, stuff enters, looks around, likes what it sees and stays. And stays and stays and stays and in the meantime I have some new stuff and the old stuff is wearing out its welcome.

Lately I’ve been trying my hand at de-stuffing. I feel moderately inhospitable getting rid of stuff that has made itself at home. But it doesn’t pay rent, doesn’t clean up after itself, and some of it is developing severe personality disorders that are making the possibility of eviction easier.

Take these dolls.

Please.

The first one belonged to my mother in law. (Both are pushing 90. My mother-in-law is by far the better looking of the two.) Look deep into the doll’s eyes.
I dare you.

I call her “Soulless Lou.”
Actually I call her Soulless Sal but some lovely people I know are named Sally so for purposes of preserving friendships she’ll be Lou. I believe she turned down an opportunity to appear on “The Walking Dead.”

Second is a little lady I refer to as “Scabbers” for obvious reasons.

She is probably about 110. She belonged to an elderly neighbor who had no children and thought I’d like the doll. Scabbers isn’t particularly horrifying until her eyes—which still function—start blinking, and don’t stop.

The last doll is mine. One of the few toys I have from my childhood. She is about 60. Her name used to be Judy but now it is “She-reminds-me-of-the-little-possesed-girl-from-the-Exorcist.”


My kindergarten-aged grandsons slept over last week and refused to go to bed till the doll formerly known as Judy was out of the room.

My de-stuffing has caught on a snag. A doll my parents bought me when I was a toddler. One from my beloved mother-in-law and one from a sweet neighbor who is now in heaven. How can I evict them?

I don’t have an answer yet.
But tell me.
Is it my imagination, or are they suddenly just a little closer to the edge of the sofa than when I first set them down?

The Granny with the Magic House

 

IMG_0632It’s unsettlingly easy to make me feel guilty and inadequate. But all these blog posts and articles and encouragements to clear out your clutter before your kids have to—not making a dent on my conscience or behavior.

First, do you know how many years I cleaned up my kids’ clutter? Come to think of it, some of their stuff is still sitting at my house, mingled with my stuff, probably spontaneously generating more stuff.

Second, when I am gone (and I’ll be honest. I’d like to postpone that day till I am ancient and doddering and my kids are saying “We love Mom so much, but she’s ready to go to a better place). Where was I? Oh yes. When I’m gone, I like to think my boys will be going through my stuff and finding treasures. Treasures to remind them of their childhood. Mementos of how greatly they were loved. They’ll see all the saved drawings and “I love yuo mom” [sic] cards and little gifts made of pipe cleaners and cardboard. I want them to understand that to me, each was an expression of boundless love via small hands.

I hope they find mysterious items they can only speculate about. Is it old? Part of our heritage? Something precious? Isn’t this like a treasure hunt?

(I wish there was a stash somewhere of my grandparent’s stuff—especially the little bits of living belonging to the three of them I never knew. To see what they loved, what they thought was important. To see a bit of the history that is a part of me. What delight I’d find in that!)

Finally, I want to be the granny with the magic house. The house with unexpected delights in closets and corners and on bookshelves and the basement. I want there to be things they don’t have to worry about handling with care because Granny saved these things for just such a time as this. And there should be the fragile, lovely stuff to marvel at and cherish, to only touch with a grandparent nearby. There should be stuff with stories, stories that link them with people they’ve never meant and places that no longer exist.

I want them to be able to touch their heritage. I want them to see paraphernalia that connects them to past generations, read books their great-grandparents read, admire jewelry that was admired a century ago. I never want them to run out of clutter and accumulations to explore at Granny’s house, so they always feel there is more to discover. More mystery, more excitement, more objects to handle and marvel at and speculate on. Magical bits and bobs that transport them across time and oceans could be just around the corner, maybe on that top shelf or the bottom drawer or in the dark and dusty crawl space.

Some of my stuff ends up in the trash every time I go through it. But my acid test isn’t very strong:
-Is this stuff safe for the grandkids to play with? Even if it is a one-and-done pleasure, it just won a reprieve.
-Does this stuff elicit an immediate emotional connection? Does it link me to a place or person or event? As long as my brain encourages my feelings to respond, this stuff stays.
-Then there’s the stuff I hold dear only because of its inherent beauty, Does it evoke wonder? Bring me delight? Because it may delight my loved ones too, I’ll hang onto it. We’ve got the room.

Stuff is just stuff. But it can serve a purpose. That stuff can be a visible reminder of love and loved ones, of creative expression and events and people and places that faded into oblivion. Yet when the stuff hits our hands and our retinas it wakens something in the heart and brain.

My kids and grandkids may one day regret my propensity to hang onto stuff. Even so, I hope they take a final look on the way to the trash can and say, “She sure did love us though, didn’t she?”

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