Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Autumn, where are you?

October was unusually warm in Utah until yesterday. I hid from the rain and wind all day and did nothing but play games and mope.

This morning began with the sound of hail pounding on the chimney cap and gutters, waking me at 5:15. I stayed awake!

I went outside an did some winterizing chores, moved the garden solar lights, the water globes, the gnome, put up the new bird feeder. Brought in some stuff which could freeze. Used a hooked branch to get my Halloween streamers down where they'd blown up in the gutters. Got a faceful of cold, dirty water and wet leaves. Joy. Moved the skeletal flamingos out to the front with the rest of the decorations. I had one more gnome to move, he's holding a mushroom like a cup. I flipped him over on his side to drain and saw some very cold but still alive yellow jackets clinging to the underside of the mushroom. I just left him, and them, be. Yikes if I'd grabbed them!

Just as I finished, there was a snow flurry. Snow?! I still need to have Larry mulch the roses and button up the rest of the yard. Oh yeah, the big maple still is full of green leaves, she hasn't even turned red yet! A big snow storm will break her branches that way.

Now I have to change my clothes, I always feel "tickly" after I've been walking around insects. Comes from a wasp crawling up my pants leg when I was a teen. No, no sting, but a severe and lingering fear of creeping flying things.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Christmas cards

I must have thrown away a hundred or more, mom kept them all. From the 80s to the present, and no doubt there are more lurking in the basement.

When dad died, there was so much more to it than his departure. Cleaning the house means reconnecting with mom and all she left behind. Sure, when she passed we took many of her things, but this is the deep down daily things. Bills and junk mail, letters and cards, her graceful handwriting everywhere. Her love of beautiful things and cute little toys. All the things she received from us, or planned to give to us. Wrapping paper and tiny soaps and all those perfume bottles. Her crocheting, all those patterns and all that thread, all unused now.

Connections, connections. Today I feel so very weepy.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


There be monsters here.

Larry went through mom and dad's nightstands for me, not asking a lot about what to keep. A small brown book with Family Record stamped in gold on the cover made it home. A family tree book. Inside, in mom's beautiful hand, were our names as Mother and Father. Below were the empty lines entitled Children. She must have bought it when I was pregnant. That wasn't a very good Christmas, was it?

Interestingly enough, only the women on my side were filled in past my grandparents' generation. I guess you start with the childbearers. Larry's side was entirely blank. So on the plus side, while I knew my great grandmothers' maiden names, I can now rattle them off. Houghton, McGregor, Brown, Nelson.

I could not stand to throw away the little book, but I made sure it was somewhere I could not run across it casually ever again. I tossed it behind the tall Japanese desk in my work room. I won't be the one who moves that piece of furniture. It may well stay there until I die.

And I'm okay with that.

Monday, October 11, 2010


We're still chipping away at the deep pockets of stuff in mom and dad's house. Mom is making her presence known, through dresser drawers I couldn't bear to empty years ago and bags of "bills" from the 70s and 80s. Bills which are really PCH sweeps and credit card offers. Perfume bottles on the mirrored tray. My brothers' bow ties from when they were little. A favorite cat mug and a broken Husky mug. Old postcards, some sent, some just kept. Stacks of stickers and stationary and receipts and instruction manuals for electronics long since lost. The police report from when the house was broken into in the 80s. Rainbow pillowcases and scarves. The white leather belt dad favored in the 70s, yikes. Pictures of people I do not know and babies I can't identify. Cases of canning jars and cases of homemade jam of unknown vintage. Pans and pens and candles and magazines. And dolls. And crocheting and fishing and photography incidentals. And cookbooks and old food storage buckets. And Navy stuff which must be sorted carefully because dad and the Navy were one and the same in our minds.

And crystal glasses. Mom and dad must have bought a new set of glasses every year or so.


Pay homage to Minutiae and Detritus, the household gods who occupy the homes of the recently deceased.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Intangible Aura of Material Goods

Stuff is just stuff, except when it is not.

Stuff is utilitarian, surely. That's the easy part. You need this knife to cut your steak. You need shoes so you don't freeze your toes off.

Stuff can be pleasing and delightful. We call that art for the most part. Everyday items, well made and good in the hand are a wonder.

Stuff can be plastic crap from Mal-Wart, and not worth more than a disdainful "screw you" and a toss toward the landfill.

Stuff is history. "This is the first known example of tool making by proto-humans." "This is your great grandmother's scarf she wore on her journey from Europe." "This horse is my first toy."

Stuff can be potential. Did you buy that blouse because you needed to cover your tits? No? You bought it because it gives you a feeling, perhaps of being secure financially, of being pretty, of being chic. Mom bought cookbooks, not for the recipes, but for the possibility of loving family dinners. Look in any craft room and it will be stacked to the ceiling with patterns and scraps and fabrics, each a symbol of the loving mother handmaking memories with her children.

Stuff is memory mixed with emotion. "This is the glass teapot Mom bought in the bazaar in Shiraz, next door to the silversmith who made the silver bowl for the Empress." The glass teapot represents every magical day in the bazaar. "This is the print I bought for dad's birthday at the New Sanno." The print is more than a gift, more than art for the wall, it represents dad's love for Japan, and for every joyous weekend spent in a fine hotel. Cat stuff means mom, every bit of porcelain means a love of beautifully crafted pieces, travel to far places, and an abiding respect for the wider world.

Stuff is best with stories. Stuff which has lost all history, has lost its people, that is sad stuff indeed.