SPRING INTO ACTION
Spring is a time of fresh starts, new flowers, the blush of green in the trees and the shaking out the dust of winter and breathing in the freshness around us. It is also the time for Spring cleaning - attacking the garage, the storage shed, getting ready for outdoor fun. And sheding some of the stuff that has gathered during the dark days of winter. This is no easy task, as we all know. And these treasures of ours are only things with an emotional attachment to us. Those wonderful summer floaties you used and your kids used, that have leaks need to go. BUT, they remind us of family trips and fun from days gone, long gone. It's time. You can ask your adult children to come, retrieve your baseball cards, trains, dolls, comic books. I have been preaching this even before The Last Gift Box became my passion and motivation. And I now have an ally. My friend and Gifter sent me this article by Robbie Shell. Read on.
How will you accept your family's kind "no thanks, Mom" of your garden chair?
By Robbie Shell
(Wall Street Journal) --
Now in my sixth year of retirement, I am about to
embark on a whole new relationship -- grandmother to a baby girl.
Anticipating the addition to their family, my son and his wife recently moved
into a house near Washington, D.C., the biggest home my son has lived in since
being on his own.
The new baby (my first grandchild) and new house ignited one of my
long-awaited projects -- excavating crawl spaces and basement corners on a
hunt for possessions to pass on to the next two generations.
It's easy to predict how this played out. My son and his wife turned down many
more items than they accepted. Much of what I had hoped to "upsize" to them
stayed in my basement and attic.
What wasn't easy to predict, however, was how complicated this seemingly
simple transaction could be. It involved multiple perspectives, across
multiple generations. It showed how possessions, when held up to the light,
often lose the very qualities that prompted us to set them aside. And, in my
case, it offered a glimpse of a future that I've thought about -- and looked
forward to -- for years.
I started with a set of eight bird-themed china plates my mother had ordered
decades earlier for each of her four children. The plates, still in their
original boxes, were beautiful in a dated, old-world way. For my mother, these
plates were an investment whose value would increase over time.
But I looked at them and saw something different: the result of a direct mail
pitch for a plate-of-the-month club.
Revisiting them tucked away in the latest of a succession of attics, I
realized there was also a dream behind these plates. I think my mother
pictured me bringing them out for elegant dinner parties at a country house
similar to the one her own parents had entertained in. That never happened. I
chose my own lifestyle and china.
And yet I kept them, finding it difficult to give away such a poignant memory
of my mother's aspirations for us and her concern for our future well-being.
My own children would have none of these associations, but I made the offer
just in case: Could my son and daughter-in-law see a decorative or functional
use for these plates in their dining room? Their quick response: "Too
Moving on, a cabinet in the living room holds 46 limited-edition Harvard
Classics circa 1910 acquired from a literary neighbor decades ago. My husband
and I considered it an investment of a different kind -- in knowledge.
Although I never found time to read any part of the set, I thought my son -- a
philosophy major in college -- might welcome a "great books" course, with
works ranging from Homer and Dante to Adam Smith and Darwin. He politely
declined: No shelf space now, but maybe later.
Nearby is an Encyclopaedia Britannica set I bought for my two sons in their
middle-school years, hoping they would see these as resources later on for
their own children. What was I thinking? Somewhere along the way I forgot (or
never considered) how much the world would change before the next generation
came of age. The set is a hard-bound, museum-piece dinosaur, a record of the
world in the 1990s before geopolitical events rewrote the global map and
social upheavals rewrote the cultural one. Then along came Google, and
computer screens began to replace the books we bought or borrowed for
ourselves and our children.
My myopia continued with an attempt to interest my son and his wife in a
beautiful mahogany-trimmed white couch in the basement that no longer fit into
our current house. The reason for their rejection was now becoming familiar:
Hand-painted wine glasses, colorful rugs, and framed prints of places our
family had visited were next. Could these items and our memories of them find
a place in my son and daughter-in-law's new home? It turns out they already
had their own preferred equivalents, and I am reminded once again that younger
generations make their own choices. More to the point, they aren't hoarders.
They take only what they need now. Having seen the degraded world they will
inherit, they are dedicated to sustainability, recycling, preservation of the
environment, fewer material goods. My generation is still catching up.
They did give thumbs-up to desk lamps, guest sheets and towels, a few kitchen
items and one folding chair, among other things -- utilitarian items with no
stories or expectations attached.
Most interesting (and valuable) to me were the things I realized I was not yet
ready to part with. My mother gave me a ring she always wore entwined with
diamonds and rubies -- too small to be of any monetary value, but meaningful
to me because I can still, 25 years after her death, picture her hands and by
extension her physical presence. I will someday offer the ring to my
daughter-in-law, hoping she will appreciate it along with the accompanying
narrative. Isn't that how this is supposed to work? We pass on possessions
that tie the generations together as they move through the family.
Then there was the collection of unrelated items I now saw in a different
light -- those whose stories matter only to me: the child's battered wooden
rocking chair from the porch of my grandparents' summer house; a faded,
inscribed photograph of my father as a young man standing next to his own
father, whom I never met; and the small tarnished music box with a twirling
ballerina on top that was a gift from my godfather when I was young enough to
still dream about being a dancer.
These things will stay with me here in the home where I have lived for
decades. Unless. . .
One day a young girl visiting her grandparents comes upon the music box. She
picks it up and turns the key that starts the music playing. "Grandma," she
says, "what's this? Can I have it?" "It's yours," I say, my heart skipping a
beat. "It always has been. You had only to ask."