I’m not someone who generally holds on to things. I have certain things I like, but when it comes to emotional attachments to objects, well, there just isn’t a whole lot that grabs me in that way. I have a few things around the house that I cherish, and those things I do keep. But the majority of the items I live with are things I wouldn’t be too bothered by losing.
I guess my ability to not get attached to the stuff of life makes it a little easier for me to be a minimalist than it does others. Sometimes, I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing… I just know that it’s how I am.
Both of my grandparents on my mom’s side have passed away. My grandma passed first. When she left this world, my heart ached for a long time. Grief is hard. After her death, I made a point of visiting my grandpa on a regular basis. I enjoyed the closeness I had with both of them, and I didn’t want that to fade. And then one day, my grandpa made his way to the other side.
And I cried.
After my grandpa’s passing, his house had to be gone through. I was asked if there was anything I wanted to remember my grandparents by.
I thought and thought about it for days. It felt like I had to say something, so I decided to ask for the three small ceramic butterflies that hung on the kitchen wall. I like butterflies. I have three tattooed on my right forearm. Butterflies speak life to me.
My mom gave me the butterflies.
I took them home, and I remember sitting in my house staring at them for hours on end. I never hung them up. I just set them on a counter and stared at them.
After a few months had passed, I visited my brother’s house. I’ll never forget that day… I was sitting in their house and my sister-in-law asked me if I liked how they had arranged some of my grandparents’ knickknacks on their shelves. I told her that it all looked very nice. And then she asked me why I didn’t take any of it.
“Don’t you want to remember them?” she asked.
“I’ll always remember them,” I told her.
And then I changed the subject.
The truth of it is, those items that were on their shelves – items that came out of my grandparents’ house – were things I never even realized existed. As I looked at them, I had very little recollection of them. Were they on the shelves at my grandparents’ house? I guess they were… but I didn’t know.
And that’s when it hit me… and I cried again, a lot.
I didn’t know what those things were because when I was with my grandparents, I was present. I was there. I was with them. I was not paying attention to some sort of tech gadget. I was not staring off into space. I was not focused on the television or anything else.
I was present.
My time with them was spent visiting, laughing, sharing stories, and creating memories.
I remember very little of what hung on their walls. There were a couple of pictures I recall, some bowling awards (they loved bowling)… and the butterflies.
When we made the big move from Nevada to Wyoming, I packed up those butterflies and moved them with us. I kept them packed away while we lived in our rental home. But when our permanent home was done being built and we moved in, I unpacked them. And I set them on a counter.
And I stared at them.
I left them on that counter for weeks, until one day I walked by and accidentally knocked my elbow into them. They crashed to the floor. Two made it, but one shattered.
I didn’t cry.
I picked up the pieces and I smiled. I thought about my grandparents, and I smiled. I didn’t care that the butterflies broke… I threw them all, broken and unbroken, away that day.
And I smiled.
I smiled the same smile that crosses my face whenever I wash towels. There is a unique smell from towels fresh out of the dryer… maybe it has to do with the particular detergent, I don’t know… but that smell reminds me of my grandma.
It’s the same smile that I get when I visit the ice cream section at the grocery store and see Death by Chocolate. When I was in college, I would visit my grandparents weekly. My grandpa would always go to the store and buy Death by Chocolate ice cream and we would have huge bowls of it while we visited.
It’s the smile I get when my son turns on the television each afternoon to watch one of his favorite gameshows. He always turns it on a few minutes early, just in time for the last five minutes of a soap opera. For that five minutes, I think of my grandma… and I smile. She loved that soap opera. She watched it every day. If she had to be out, she would record it and watch it that evening. She never missed an episode. When my son was first born, he would nap during that show. I would watch it and talk with my grandma about it – it was so silly, but we shared that.
And I smile when I hear certain words. My grandpa had a way with words. He had a few particular things he would say when asked how he was that just cracked me up. On the occasion that someone else uses those words, I’m instantly transported to the memories of him.
I recall conversations, meals, moments… and not a single one is attached to an object. Rather, they are all formed from the senses. And that’s because I was present. All there, all in, experiencing life.
So no, my house is not full of objects that bring memories. My house is loved, lived in, and pleasant… but it’s not full of stuff. The stuff isn’t where I hold my memories. Those memories are in me. They live in me. They are a part of my heart, my soul, and my every being. The crying from grief has long since gone away. When a tear starts to form now, it is a happy one based on a memory from a moment in time when I was present. And I have those memories, so vivid and clear, because I shared life with the people I loved. I valued moments more than things… the moments are what mattered.