Lately, I’ve spent a great deal of time pondering what makes some objects precious and others not. Great literature, mythology, and fairy tales often hang stories around a precious thing. Some are magical, others are symbolic, and many are both. The gilded, crystal bowl in Henry James’ ‘The Golden Bowl’ is the perfect symbol of the imperfect relationships of the characters. It has a fatal flaw. Excalibur is both the symbol of legitimate sovereignty and an object with magical powers. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Gollum and his “precious” ring in ‘The Lord of the Rings.’
Clearing out/cleaning out my late mother’s apartment has been an object lesson in what is precious and what is simply useful, disposable, entertaining, charming, ridiculous, enchanting, and garbage. What would you do with the framed diplomas? Do you have any ideas to share? I don’t have a need for my own—let alone those of my parents.
Some of the artwork that my father collected is nowhere as valuable as he thought. That’s fine. I’m keeping what I like. What speaks to me and reminds me—in a symbolic fashion—of my dad, or when I was growing up, or where we traveled as a family. I’ve given away a great deal of art, already sold some, and will sell more soon.
But once I ventured off the walls of the large apartment, determining what was precious to me and what might be useful or marketable to others has turned into an all consuming job. I’m learning a great deal of about my parents! Why was there an electric guitar in the storage space? Who is the girlfriend in the cartoon my dad drew of himself studying Shelley’s poetry in 1946? When did my mother buy the embroidered wall hanging depicting peasants running from war planes and machine-gun-wielding soldiers and is it Hmong? Why did they have a chair clearly designed for tall people? How many flashlights, coffee pots, and paperclips do two people need?
Precious and/or useful… That’s become my criteria and it is allowing me to let go of stuff, while keeping the memories that will be the basis for all sorts of stories!