Monday, September 13, 2010

An Analysis of Stuff (Part 2 of as Many as it Takes)

I've been considering performing a longitudinal study involving women who have saved Homecoming mums for more than, say, 10 years.  Theory:  The longer a thing is kept, the harder it is to get rid of.  I will take note of the number of years that said mum(s) has been kept, means of storage, significance of the bestower of the mum, and overall hoarding habits of the keeper of the mum.  My assumption is that no matter the significance of the bestower or tendencies to hoard mementos of special occasions, a thing that has been kept for as many as 10 years will be harder than the dickens to chunk.

I can go through my dish towel drawer in a quick minute and cull out all of the towels that I would never use in front of company.  Sorting through my mom's dish towels which have been meticulously stored in categories (some of which date back to the early 70's) is a whole other subject.  My mother has very specific uses for very specific dish towels.  The cotton blue and white striped towels are for every day use including drying dishes and perhaps a wet, but clean, counter.  The pink and white Williams-Sonoma dish towels are meant to be used only during visits from neighbors, birthday parties, or holiday dinners (except those holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, which have their own holiday-themed dish towels).    NEVER, EVER is a dish towel used to wipe up coffee spilled on a counter or honey dripped on the floor.  EVER.  That is what paper towels are for.  Dish towels are never to come in contact with any substance which will cause staining or any surface as nasty as a floor.  Therefore, the majority of my mom's dish towels are as pristine as the day they were woven.  Her influence has controlled my dish towel conscience for the majority of my adult life.  My neighbor gave me some navy and white checked dish towels one Christmas with a very subtle snowflake pattern which, technically, places them squarely in the "holiday" category.  Generally, all of my holiday dish towels are packed away with the corresponding holiday decor at the end of that holiday season.  One year, I was running low on socially acceptable dish towels.  My hand almost shook as I retrieved the navy and white snowflake towels from the box clearly labeled "Christmas:  Kitchen Decor."  Relegating those towels to everyday use was all at once unnerving, liberating, and exhilarating.

My mother's meticulous storage and labeling systems seem to have inflated the actual value of very simple things.  Below, I have listed some examples.  
The Skateboarder
  1. At least 100 samples of her students' art collected over the years that she taught 6th grade art.  Mom had several boxes of crayon drawings that were "SOOO good!"  Within some of the boxes, the art pieces were categorized and labeled:  "Crayola Resist," "Positive and Negative Space," "Self-Portraits."  My favorite pictures, many of which had captions, were from the "A Trip to the Dentist" folder.  "Stop it!  Your herting me!"  There were other boxes containing delicately wrapped samples of "Egg Sculptures" (little people with blown out eggshell heads).  How on earth can one dispose of a 20-year-old sculpture of Egg-headed Elvis crooning into a mike?  On a table in my sunroom there now lives a paper mache skateboarder that looks very similar to my oldest child during his junior high skateboarding days. 
  2. Boxes and boxes of old Better Homes and Gardens magazines.  These may well enter the Antiques Roadshow Hall of Fame due to the numerous Post-It notes that peek out from every issue announcing things like "Cute Kitchen!!!," "Great Storage Ideas," and "Love the Colors of this Bedroom!" in my mother's scratchy handwriting.  Looking through those pages was like a walk down a path lined with Mom's fanciful ideas about creating the perfect home for her family.  Oh, how I wish I could have had that celadon green girl's room with brown, mustard and green mod bedding!  Flower power was the grooviest!
  3. Every letter my grandfather, Lem Cary Williams (aka "the sweetest man who ever lived" according to my mother), wrote to my mother over her lifetime.  Some of the notes are quick missives jotted down to let my mother know that "everyone is feeling much better."  Some are instructions:  "Here is $5.  Use it towards your rent."  What makes these letters priceless?  Two words at the bottom of each.  "Love, Dad."
I will close this installment of my ruminations with a few photo examples of items which have migrated from Waco's 2709 Rockview all the way to 84th St in Lubbock for time immemorial or until my children stuff them in lawn and leaf trash bags while emptying our "estate."

Set of 8 Cocktail Napkins
(with a stencil designed by my mom)
and hand-stitched by my mom

(I'm still trying to figure out how
she was going to fold them.)

Christmas Card Stencil
Mom hand-carved this stencil for their Christmas card
during one of the first years of my parents' marriage.
Check out their names on the left side..."Helen & Dobo"
(My dad was nicknamed "Dobo" by his parents.)

The Piece de Resistance
The hotel key and receipt for $8 from Hotel Beaumont
where my parents spent their wedding night
(dubbed "Our Honeymoon" by my mother)  

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