While reading the latest post on an incredible blog this morning (http://thefirstbookoftesticles.blogspot.com/ ),
I was touched so deeply I was comforted, while reading the comments, to learn I had not been the only one to 'well up.'
I remembered a comment left on one of my posts - Thank You Robert, for the connecting synapse in my brain this morning - concerning an old, silver-plated coffee table cigarette lighter that had belonged to my Grandparents. It had been around a long time before I was born, but seeing it brings me back, if not to a simpler time (which is way too corny, even for me...), but to the time when I was young, with all my days ahead of me. Though always in the memory of the mind, there seems to be comfort in holding the concrete object that brings the memory to life, as if the object is an affirmation of fact that cannot be disputed.
There is something to be said for the music that brings memories to the frontal lobe, as well as things we carry with us, the physical things that are somehow able to define us. I daresay each of us could, from a small box of things (we have dragged with us for gaud knows how many years), actually define our souls, tell the story of our lives if you will, with music and objects.
Each time I move and 'hoe out,' finding things in each box I no longer want to bring with me, I realize now, most of the things remaining are the story of my life, without words. Just artifacts. Things my mother, and her mother before her, carried with them, passing on the storied memories so that the treasure would never be lost. Origins of the fabric of personalities that make us all what we are now, remain.
Things such as my great-grandmother's death pin. While one of the women in attendance intrically braided a lock of her hair harvested after her death to place in the pin, other's scurried around the dining room where she would be laid out, debating what dress she would wear in that final dance of calling hours, and then forever more. When my mother passed it on, she said, "Important source of mitachondrial DNA should any of us go missing..." She cared for the pin about as much as she cared for donating blood, which is to say, zilch. But the pin, with it's history of frantic women searching for a dress, profoundly affected the women who would follow, in so far as clothing and shopping would go. The women finally decided a shopping trip was in order to buy Nana a new black dress, and of course they would need one as well... Things like my great-grandmother's necklace which she wore to the theatre, one of her hat pins. My mother's cigarette holder. She could look like a movie star, or a character from The Spy Who Came In From The Cold when she sat on the Chesterfield sofa smoking with a snifter of brandy on the side table.
My grandfather's glasses, which I had my perscription put in and still wear, because they remind me of the many nights we played checkers into the wee hours of the morning.
The note my father kept in his wallet, written in his elderly hand, of books I was missing in my collection, the note he put with his good watch. My parents watches, which they only wore on special occasions. Or when they danced in the living room at midnight, candle glowing while a Cole Porter 78 RPM played softly in the background. To this day, hearing the music they loved to dance to has the ability to conjure images of their dancing again. I can still hear my sister, later in life, ribbing our parents about secret, sinister backgrounds because no-where in the world would you find a sailor and a nurse that could dance quite so elegantly.
Or even more recently
The earrings my son gave me for Christmas in 1995, four days before my first 9 hour long cancer surgery. It was his way of telling me I needed to survive so that I could wear the earrings. He, like his grandfather before him, adding tangible objects to the memories. Proof of his faith in me to survive.
And so it was the music today, Jimmy Durante singing 'I'll Be Seeing You." The words to a song I learned as a child floated past, memories collected and faded as the song played on, and with each memory I had a particular physical object to relate to, objects which have kept the stories and memories alive for my children and me.
I called my daughter, and asked her, "If you had to tell your life story with objects, as opposed to words, and you only had one box to put those objects in, what would you put in the box?"
"How big is the box?"
"Um, a U-Haul book box."
"Can it be something from your house?"
"Of course, it'll all be yours anyway in the end."
"The only thing I can think of at the moment is the crystal bowl with shells. Can I get back to you on the rest?"
With that I knew I have done my job. A dear friend of my mother's had given her the lead crystal bowl, which my mother unloaded on me about twenty years after her friend had died. It lived on a bookcase but did not remain empty long. My son and daughter got into the habit of dropping their most treasured shells from trips to the beach into it. Thirty-two years I have had this bowl with the shells. Each time I move, I rinse off the dust, wash the bowl and pack the lot for my new home. Yet I think this will be going to my daughters with my next load for her. It's time.
A short time later the phone rang.
"The jewelry, I want the jewelry in the box."
She knows that even stories concerning my father involve jewelry.
She gets it.