Polishing Old Doorknobs #collectingmemorabilia #keepsakes #livingintheNOW
July 27, 2014
When I used the bus to get to college in Pittsburgh in the 1980s, I would always choose selectively where I would sit. One morning, out of the many strange people scattered around me in seats available, I saw an innocuous, elderly woman wearing a long black woolen coat carrying a grocery bag. It was late summer. When I looked at her to see if the seat was available, she smiled politely and moved over. I took this as my cue to have a seat. She immediately began to talk to me, which didn’t displease me. I really love elderly people, who seem to be full of so much wisdom. Soon into the conversation, she asked me if I wanted to see her collection in the bag she carried. I, being the people pleaser, of course, said, “I would love to!” When she opened the bag—before, I could even look—the nastiest smell emanated from it. She shoved the open side of the bag toward me. As I peer into a bag of what looked like mold and growing globs of fungus, she exclaimed: “I’ve been collecting pudding for two years!” Gagging, now, I politely excused myself, got out at the next stop, and escaped the crazy lady to breathe in fresh air.
This woman reminded me of the character Aunt Clara from the old television situation comedy, Bewitched. I loved that show and Aunt Clara, in particular, who collected old doorknobs from all of the exotic places she had visited around the world in her youth. I am laughing just thinking of the absurdity of collecting doorknobs, but also see the charm. The actress certainly made me remember her by her quirky habit.
Why does anyone collect objects? I have friends who collect Barbie’s, kitchen witches, pet stones, beanie babies, and glass figurines, and the like. When I have asked each of them why they collect that certain object, most of them say, that someone heard he or she liked or enjoyed the one or two collectibles the friend had. Then a partner decided to begin to add to the collection every birthday and holiday. Soon, other friends saw the building collection and added their favorites to the memories. Suddenly, without much self-help, the collection built so much so that my friend had to buy a étagère just to house them. Now, the memories attached to the objects are from people, not the ceramic cats.
The same situation happened to me with crosses from around the world. At one point, one Christmas, ten friends bought me different kinds of crosses and pictures frames with crosses on it. Honestly, I’m not all that fond of crosses, but I could never say that to my kind friends. For a long time, I hung the crosses everywhere, until a Feng Shui specialist asked me why I have a symbol of death all around my home. Suddenly, I realized, not only did I not like crosses, I really wanted to get rid of every last one of them, despite the fact that they were gifts from lovely people.
As I have been packing to move, I have found a few crosses that got lost in boxes and in the back of drawers. One was even hung on my shed door, which I see as I go out of the house every day. Apparently, I looked right past it when I disposed of the others. I had to laugh at which crosses actually remained. Two of them were from ex-partners. How symbolic! This time, I set the two remaining crosses in a box to give to the Salvation Army. Maybe someone else who enjoys the symbol can benefit from my purge of old, unmemorable items.
We can never hold on to the past without belaboring it and stopping up the possibility of the now. Even old photographs that remind you of someone special who had passed, sometimes must remain in a drawer, because of the harsh memory of losing someone you loved. Every day we have a choice: every moment of every day, we have the opportunity to hold on to the past as it passes us by, or we can look to the next moment of life to cherish it for as long as it lasts. Today, I choose the latter!
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