Monday, November 21, 2016

Take What Matters Most

Written a week ago.

My house in the mountains is safe from the fires at this time, but filled with smell of smoke. I wear a mask inside as well as outside. With allergies and so many sensitivities that cause respiratory illness, I can only stay here a short time and then must leave again.

We often take our lives for granted. My life is good I often say to myself. I have never been overly attached to material things, but when I had to  think about what I would save if my house burned, I was a complete mess. I didn't think so much about important papers, but old photograph albums, my husband's first guitar, my sister's first full-body sculpture she gave me, my mother's portrait and my own paintings. I also remembered the letters my father wrote to my mother nearly 100 years ago. None of them could be replaced.

I didn't think about the boxes of journals I've kept for so many years. Why should I keep them? No one will ever read them anyway. I don't go back to them anymore.

If I had more time, I would have grabbed the original manuscript of my family history book, notebooks with my ancestry and Barry's  ancestry carefully researched and plotted for posterity, articles and letters my mother saved and I saved after she was gone.

Maybe it was good that I didn't pack those things into a box for my friend to keep for me. When I am gone from this earth, they will very likely be thrown away and never even looked at by anyone. Isn't it good that when we die, we have no need to know and no way to know what becomes of our worldly possessions?

Do we collect these historical documentations of  our  lives just to make ourselves feel important? Most of us will never have crowds yelling our names, wanting to hear us speak, as Mr. Trump had at his rallies. If we did, what would we say? Would we waste that time, those adrenaline moments, denouncing  others or would we make an effort to share what wisdom we have achieved in life? Would we try to relate to the human condition and inspire our approving audience? Would the ideas and examples of what we have learned in seventy years mean more in the long run than boxes of papers no one will ever read?

How do we want to be remembered?
By the awards we win, the plaques we hang on our walls, the buildings we build, our names on the university doors, or by the words we use to help others enjoy a successful life? Do we want to be judged by our material gains or by our empathy for those less fortunate and gentle encouragement of those who seek our wisdom?

Perhaps it is the  teacher in me that makes me ponder these questions tonight. Perhaps it is recognizing how few material goods I have that matter. Perhaps it is because so many of my friends say their children want none of the silver, crystal, fine china, antique furniture, expensive paintings and memorable clothes that have been in the family for generations. Why don't these daughters and sons recognize the value of the family heirlooms?

The  past seems not to be important to younger generations. Live in the present. Today is all that matters. We hear this all the time. This is not just a condition of  the Gen-X or Millennials.

When my mother-in-law passed away in the 80s, her two sons and her grandchildren had no interest in what she left behind except for her automobile which was passed on to her grandson. She left her good silver to her granddaughter. Being more sentimental I wanted her paintings, a certain table and a couple of chairs, her photos and family clippings. Her house filled with a large collection of antique furniture was sold for a song.

Most of us would like to see our special treasures passed on to someone who would truly care about them. I don't have children to inherit my special keepsakes, but even those people who have children find that no one wants to be encumbered with "stuff." I have that gene from my mother, the one that wants to hold on to precious memories and precious things, whether of material value or not.
But when I can no longer live alone and in my own house, God forbid, I know I will have to let some things go. But until then, I will get my things back from my friend, Mary Mike, and hope that I don't have to evacuate again.


Far Side of Fifty said...

I suppose it will take many rains to get rid of the smoke smell outside. When a forest fire came near our home a few years back it too at least two weeks for the smoke smell to be gone.
Everyone has to pick and choose what is the most important in their live, I struggle with downsizing too. I was born with nothing and so will I die:)

DJan said...

When my mother died, one of my other sisters wanted all her china and keepsakes. I took two bowls and that was it. They come out once or twice a year for special occasions. I am now not encumbered with a lot of stuff to haul from place to place. When we left Colorado, I really purged what I had accumulated. It feels good. I'm glad you didn't lose your home or your treasures.

Elephant's Child said...

A powerful post.
We have too many things. Things I value, things I treasure, but too many of them just the same.
I hope to be remembered as someone who cares. And lived a life which showed that caring...

Abbie Taylor said...

Glenda, I'm glag your house is safe but sorry you can't stay there long because of the smoke. I hope it clears soon. You're still in my thoughts.