My Life in Junk

I might have too much attachment to things.

I do not know how to look at my grandma’s old dishes, only three plates left, now, some of them chipped, and not remember all the Sunday dinners I ate from those plates. The mashed potatoes in the matching bowl and the platter full of turkey or chicken or roast beef. Cream colored with gold designs. The sugar bowl and the creamer pitcher to match. The artifacts of a million happy Sundays.

They are junk, really, to anyone else and though I put them on the “please take me” table at Grams, no one has done it. They’ll be having a service come in and clean out everything that’s left when we’ve finished sorting and shredding and packing and filing everything that either someone wants, or it needs to be destroyed for security reasons.

Then a stranger will come in and have a look at those three chipped plates and dispose of them.

I am trying to understand how I am possibly ever going to walk out of the house for the last time, leaving what’s left, including the house.

I have even considered buying it just to keep it. Emotional me can’t handle saying goodbye, but rational me knows that the minute someone else moves in it ceases to be my grandparents house so unless I’m going to set it up like a museum, it’s not going to work anyway.

I know that there is a story about everything there. I wish we knew all the stories but we only know some and we don’t know them collectively, each person heard different stories from my grandparents over a lifetime.

It makes me want to write a book about all my things.

This is the curio cabinet my parents gave me for my eighteenth birthday. It was a good gift for me because, at the time, I had an obsession with cats and had collected a bunch of figurines. There are only four in there now. The mama and three kittens that I bought from the Dutch shop at the state fair, and the other tiny one my mom gave me for Christmas one year.

The two long gray feathers are from the sandhill cranes that nested in our yard every year, I picked them up in the yard.

The glass birds, green and red, came from Gram’s house. The blue bird came from a Swedish shop at the mall, I bought it when I went to visit a coworker working there, because it reminded me of Gram. I bought her one, too, my daughter has it now.

The toddler sized wooden shoes are from my Great Uncle Don, Gram’s brother, he sent them from Michigan when I was born. He did it to tease Gram about being Dutch, something that for reasons unknown he’d done since they were kids and it seemed to on occasion really upset her. A prejudice from her childhood, I suspect.

The pink sparkling stone I got in South Dakota, that one year when we were first trying to be a blended family and we set off on a nine day family camping trip. I bought the cedar tooth fairy box at the Mt Rushmore gift shop, too.

The pine cone is from my mom. She’s always picking the best of them up and taking them home, and I was admiring that one so she gave it to me.

All the ceramics were made by my daughter at different ages. They’re full of the smooth rocks I’ve collected on the shores of Lake Superior every year on our family vacation.

The blue glass bottle, squat, with a handle, was a gift from my mom, around the time I started collecting the pretty green glass bottles in the kitchen. The little weaving next to it was made by my daughter, they look so good together.

The turtle is a bath toy from when I was a child. It’s delicate, but if you wind it carefully his back flippers will still move.

The bride and groom are from a cake my coworkers got me to tease me about getting married in Vegas. J and I made plans to go to Vegas when we’d been dating two months, and we’d been dating for four when the trip took place. Everyone was convinced we were going to get married in Vegas. The day I came back to work, my employees and the employees from several other departments threw me a wedding shower. My cubicle was decorated to the ceiling, and on the table out front were wedding gifts, a wedding cake, complete with that bride and groom, and a card, signed by practically the whole company, including the President, congratulating me on a marriage that never happened. I kept the bride and groom to remember.

The rings were my grandparents class rings, you can see the cities they grew up in on the sides. I can’t believe how skinny grandma’s fingers were, I can hardly fit hers on my pinky.

The green glass square container was actually from a candle. I kept it because it was pretty, and like most containers around, it’s full of Lake Superior rocks. You’ll find more on my desk, in an old candy dish from work and a pretty bottle with a stopper. The rest of the rocks are scattered under the picnic table at the lake.

Those are my prized possessions, though they won’t mean much to anyone else, and that’s their story.

My Life in Junk, a memoir.


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