This old house
Ann Q. Peters
I have a lot of dreams involving houses – my own home (but always slightly different), a house I’m visiting, a house I used to live in, a house I’m thinking about buying, my current home (but now with an RV park next door and people sitting around at picnic tables)… According to pop-psychology websites, houses in dreams represent self. I never knew that! I just thought I liked houses. But it makes sense. Your home is a reflection of who you are.
You know how some people are so much cooler-looking than you, richer than you, or the opposite, so much more relaxed and comfortable in their own skin than you? And their homes generally reflect that.
Both Alec and I are in the process of selling our mothers’ homes. In my case, Mom has come to California from Missouri to live with us, which is a very good thing, and in Alec’s case, his mother passed away last month at the age of 92, which is a profound loss, but what an amazing life she led.
So along with our siblings we are cleaning out drawers, taking down photos and artwork, figuring out which kid wants which rug or piece of furniture or memento.
Some of the things we’ve found: a clock made out of a giant piece of coal, a very old “Operation” board game, a pink and green ceramic bird cage – size large, two fur coats, a ceramic cigarette stand, and a portrait of Alec as an adorable five-year-old in a rather ornate frame. Some things are easy to decide, like photos of ex-spouses – toss – but what do you do with personal memorabilia that shouldn’t go in an estate sale but you don’t want to just discard? Is that what’s in storage units around America, the things that nobody wants but nobody can bear to throw away either?
My personal view is that if I’ve lived without something for 40+ years, I don’t need it now. You can’t keep everything. Let go, sell what you can, give away what you can, and throw out the rest. My brother, on the other hand, is contemplating buying a VCR so he can take all the VHS tapes he hasn’t watched in years. I think he needs an intervention!
We can never understand the trauma and loss felt by people who lost their homes in the fire. Obviously, the stuff we say is “just stuff” isn’t just stuff. It’s all wrapped up in who we are. But one day a woman the same age as my mother said to me about her burned up home, “I just did my daughters the biggest favor!” That’s a glass half full.
We’ve been informed by the estate sale people that the antiques, china, silverware, crystal, are not exactly in demand anymore. Young people these days don’t want “brown furniture.” Too bad, because I think these things are beautiful. But not because they go with my décor (although we should all be willing to mix it up a little), but because they are the repository of memories of people I love. Including Alec… as a little boy… in a fancy frame. Don’t worry, we hung that one out in the garage!