Several years’ worth of valuable dishes fell onto my mom’s foot last week. Actually, it shattered all over the floor but mom’s toes just happened to be the main target. Thankfully, they were OK. The toes – not the dishes.
When the dishes hit the wood floor, hundreds maybe thousands of pieces of glass spread throughout the dining room. The new pieces – a pie plate and a serving bowl, broke into chunks. But the old ones, given to my mother as gifts years ago – shattered into perfect squares. It was quite the site.
I was the last of my sisters to leave that night, so I stuck around to help mom and dad clean up the mess. That and it’s possible I was also the one that shoved those dishes into that cupboard after cleaning up from our Thanksgiving feast anyway.
Or was it my sister, Lisa. I can’t remember.
Regardless, I felt terrible. Losing such memorable items would most certainly make me sad. But my mom took it in stride.
“I’m mostly upset about losing that expensive Pampered Chef pie pan,” she told me. “But all of it is just stuff.”
I’m partial to stuff. Not new things you can buy in the store, but the stuff that has memories tied to it. The stuff that tells the story. I always have been. It’s why I’ve kept restaurant napkins from the meal where dad tried to teach me table manners. They’re still intact even after 23 years. It’s why I proudly display my tinfoil cup ornament made during a Sunday School class years ago, even though my 3 year old could make something more attractive. It’s why I can’t bare to throw out the polka dot heels I was wearing the night Kyle proposed, even though they are in rough shape.
It may also be why I’m having a difficult time sorting through the boxes and boxes of things at mom and dad’s house. They’re moving – soon. Dad’s building a house down the road – literally, down the road – from where our house has stood for decades. I grew up in that house. So did my dad. So did his dad.
It’s been around for a while, which means there’s lot of stuff.
Thankfully, my sister and her family will move into the old house as soon as mom and dad move out. It’s really rare to keep a family farm in the family for so many years and we’re all so thankful. (That’s about 113 years if you’re keeping track.)
When you live in a home with 113 years of stuff, one must get used to throwing things out, which might be why mom didn’t budge when the pieces shattered – on top of her foot.
“One less thing to throw out,” she smiled.
As we were cleaning up the pieces, she told me where that serving plate came from. “A gift given to her when she graduated from nursing school,” and the others were “from Grandma’s stuff.”
They were pretty dishes and before taking their last dive to their death, they served olives and carrots and warm and cold foods better than most. But even though they had been placed so gently on mom’s dining room table only hours before their demise, I couldn’t remember them.
“What did they look like?” I thought as we cleaned up the mess. I’m not sure mom even knew what had all broken.
That’s the thing about stuff. After a while, it loses its luster. Things fade, sometimes even shatter. But the memories stay intact, way better than any old serving dish. We all know this to be true.
It’s something I’ll keep in mind throughout the next few months as I move into my new home, and help mom and dad move into theirs. It’s probably a good reminder for all of this holiday season. Stuff isn’t worth much but the story is priceless. Find the story – eventually the stuff ends up in the trash, anyway.
Read more from Leslie in the Kearney Hub