Sunday, January 23

A timeless garden of friendship

The other night, I went over to my client's house to work. They have recently decided that they would be moving to a senior community center. They have lived in their home for fifty years, and have accumulated many things during that time. Among their treasures are a collection of books. I don't mean just a few books, but many! My client, who I will call "Jane" (not her real name), pulled out a plastic bag full of cardboard books. I looked at them one by one, and saw that they were Raggedy Anne and Andy books dating as far back as 1919. The pages were yellow on the edges, and most had fallen out of the binding.

Jane told me about how she used to read these books to her children, and how they looked forward to story time. There was a beautiful little poem on the first page of one of the books. I couldn't help but copy it. It says:

"Let us start a garden you and I. Let us turn the soil of acquaintanceship, and in this fertile ground plant kindly thoughts. Let us pull all the weeds of envy and selfishness, and destroy them.

Let us water our garden with the dew of sympathy. Let us keep our growing garden in the sunshine of love, and happiness is ours; our garden is filled with the beautiful flowers of friendship."

I am not sure why I was so intrigued with these books, possibly because each one held a story within a story. The history of this couple is written into the things they have collected over the years; everything they have treasured. Now, the question Jane asked me over and over was, "what are we going to do with all of these books?" The dilemma is that each one was tied to a memory, and to get rid of them was to say goodbye to parts of their lives, and yet to hold onto them would be impossible and impractical. No amount of money would make up for the history attached to these items.

Even though this is a major crossroad for my client and her husband, I enjoy being a part of the journey, and observing how they will handle this question, and those that follow.

Here are some pictures of the book covers. I thought they held up well after all of these years.


Anonymous said...

I love the passage from that book. Such a great reminder. How poetic and beautiful! -Emily

Darlene said...

Thank you, Emily! Hope you are doing well- see you soon!


Teddie Lynn said...

I, too, LOVED the poem from the book and have tucked it away on my computer to remember in the years to come. It reminds me so much of our friendship through the years.

Like your clients, I, too, am beginning a paring down of "things" in preparation for even more downsizing that coming years will require. I have asked a friend who is very good at organization and has gone through this process to simplify her own life, to come and help me make decisions that I know will be difficult. Like your clients, Dale and I have hundreds of books and almost all of them are linked to some kind of memory. They will be a good "test" of my ability to "let go of the cords that bind me" [paraphrased scripture]. After almost 40 years of marriage, we have managed to accumulate too many of those "memories" that now must find a different home. Some our children will want. Others will end up sold at a garage sale or auction, donated to Salvation Army, or thrown away.

What adds to my consternation is the genealogy I have been doing with my mother. Oh, how I wish I had some letters written by my g-g-g-grandmother, in her own hand, or pictures that children threw away because mom and dad are now gone and they didn't know who the person was and nothing was written to identify him or her. Today's "tricks of the trade" allow genealogists to track down the identity of unknown persons in family pictures. What if I throw away something that would become valuable generations from now such as your clients' Raggedy Ann and Andy books? I wish that my mom had kept some of my favorite books from childhood. I would treasure them but, alas, who would treasure them when I am gone? Still, to have a favorite childhood book from one of my ancestors, possibly inscribed on the front cover as a gift from his/her parents, would bring such a warmth and feeling of connection to and with those whose blood also courses through my veins.

When is enough, enough? When do all the memories that just remain in storage boxes or require hours of dusting and cleaning become too much? How does one go through the painful process of deciding when enough has been pared down to now be enough for the fleeting years ahead?

I want my children and grandchildren to help make the decisions but they either live too far away and/or are too busy with their own lives to help with such an arduous task. When I am gone will they wonder where this or that item went? Will they wish they had it? Will they wish they had made the time to be part of the process? I know that I wish I had been at my grandparent's estate sale, yet, what would I do with those things now? It is no wonder that a house, full of things, trickles down to one or two treasured keepsakes from ancestors over the years.

Well, my dear friend Darlene, watch, listen and learn from your clients. Perhaps there will come a day when their experience will be of help to you.

Darlene said...

Dear Teddie,

Thank you for contributing to this entry. Your thoughts were so poignant, and I wish I had answers to your questions.
I pray that God will give you wisdom in the simplifying process, and that you will know what to keep, and what things to part with.

With my own parents, I have always told them that it would be a gift not to have to go through too much "stuff," but on the other hand, as I was in Florida visiting them, I couldn't help but look around their house and admire treasures they have from all over the world, dating back to my childhood; pictures on the wall from Haiti, Italy, and many cookbooks that my Mom has that I love to go through during my visits.

I think it is great that you are having a friend go through your things. Sometimes you need someone who doesn't have the emotional ties that can help you to be objective.

Thank you again for keeping up with me :)





Italy trip

I have been going through my pictures, and have enjoyed looking at this album of Italy. I was able to go over last year to attend a conference. This was the first time I have been back in twenty years. The pictures are made up mostly of places we lived as a family. My brother and I were able to go together, and we were graciously hosted by some friends of ours from language school in Perugia. I feel such a sense of nostalgia when I look at these pictures. I miss Italy so much. It was strange to go back as a tourist knowing I would be returning to the US after such a short time. Tonight I made cookies with Nutella in them, and I remembered how much I enjoyed the simple pleasures. Fortunately, you can find it here! Saturday, we are going up to my brother's house to celebrate a late Thanksgiving, only we will be making homemade tortellini instead of turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!