When I get up in the morning, I make a cup of coffee. Beside the coffee maker is a small bouquet of flowers made from buttons. I smile and say hello to them, they sat on my deceased sister-in-law’s desk and are a perfect representation of her – simple, sweet and artistically oriented.
I sit in my chair and see the walnut and maple table perfectly crafted by our younger son. Another smile at the meditation and perfection it took for him to make this for us; a table made in California, carefully wrapped and put in the back seat of our truck, then hauled across country to Tennessee. I see it every day, making me so glad we have children.
I make up my grandmother’s iron bed, Dan’s and mine since 1974, and think of my school teacher grandmother who once taught in a one-room school where she cooked lunch beans or soup for the children on the school’s cast iron stove. Because a friend of hers needed to work and had no one to keep her 3-year-old son, granny also kept the baby, seating him on her lap while she taught reading.
In the living room I dust the library table I inherited from my wonderful Aunt Una. Never married, Aunt Una’s will designated an item to each of her 14 nieces and nephews. A fifth-grade teacher for many years, Aunt Una still managed to do something special with all 14 of us. When we were teenagers, she took my sister and me and another cousin to Atlanta for the ballet. We stayed in a hotel and Aunt Una let us each have a sip of her sherry.
On the wall above the table is an oil painting done by my mother’s dear friend, Virginia Danewood. Mrs. Danewood painted, played the piano and organ, and once gave singing lessons to my sister and me. She sometimes borrowed mother’s sewing machine and as a little girl I once watched her make bridesmaid dresses without a pattern.
On the fireplace sits an Italian Majolica pheasant, formerly belonging to Dan’s grandmother, Ma-Maw. Ma-Maw took the bus to town every day, often stopping at Kimballs Jewelry to admire a pair of pheasants. They were a beautiful extravagance; an extravagance her sweet husband told her to go ahead and buy. “For Heaven’s sake, take a taxi home, dear,” he said.
Dan and I inherited one of the pheasants and seeing it on our mantle reminds me of Ma-maw’s dining room, a place of many family meals over which the pheasants presided from their place in the window.
A few years ago, when we were visiting some English friends, I read a newspaper article about Americans being overwhelmed by their “things.” We were overwhelmed; at a loss as to what to do. That is true, and I have an on-going donation basket, but for me, possessions with memories are not “things.”
So many of our loved ones are gone, but once our grief has settled into acceptance, reminders of past joys are a pleasure for me. Our possessions made by loved ones present are like hugs, happy reminders of days ahead. We can’t, as the saying goes, take it with us, but while we’re here, the smiles my things bring are well worth the space they use in my house.
As L. M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables said, “Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”
Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.