Thursday, August 21, 2008

Memory Sparks

The property I now live on was once owned by an elderly gentleman "junker". Some might label him a "hoarder". He seemed to have a particular propensity for machinery. Old, to very old, machinery, cars, tractors (lawn, garden, and the larger variety), and bicycles. I didn't know about the bicycles until recently. Buried away, hidden away, covered in years and years of dust, in far corners of the barns was one almost complete bicycle and about 15 partial bicycles. If there was one car or tractor that was whole, and working, there were several others lying about of the same model in various stages of disrepair. These I always assumed were for parts to keep the ONE working. He had his own personal salvage yard. A year after his death, his estate is finally being settled, and his family members have emptied out all of the buildings, except for a few small odds and ends here and there.

Last night I was exploring one of the buildings, it houses a workshop, with a grease pit (Isn't that cool? I have my very own personal grease pit. What more could a girl ask for?). Anyway, as I was looking around, I noticed a few shelves placed under the south window. On these shelves were several stones of different sizes, palm size or under. My immediate thought was, "How sweet, he too found something special about rocks. I wonder what meaning, what memories these particular stones held for him?"

Which then had me thinking about the small things I have in my possession, or have saved over the years. Things I have saved because, when I cradle them in my hand, they bring forth a memory. Over the years, I have accumulated quite a number of stones, feathers, dried flowers, ticket stubs, odd pieces of jewelry, letters, cards, ribbons, books, even a few pieces of my children's baby clothing have been saved. (Sheesh! Maybe I'm a hoarder too!)

I also have 20 some odd years worth of VHS videos containing images of family gatherings, and my children's milestones. In addition there are scores of photographs, in frames, albums, boxes, and also here on my computer.

All things intended to recapture memories. Things gathered, collected, and treasured over the years because they hold life. I was an adult when I began gathering those that have the most memory attached, they are often the smallest in size, but they also have the most weight, they are my memory stones.

I have a small set of stones sitting on my file cabinet at work. When I take a moment to look at them, really look at them, when I pick them up, and allow them to rest in my hands, that day comes back to me. Each moment, each thought, each emotion. I relive it. I feel the cold brisk air. I see the wintry waves out past the ice along the shore of the lake, the sand covered snow drifts flowing over the dunes. I feel the tears streaming down my cheeks, the immense truths that filled me. These stones are well worth the space they take up.

In the first home we built, my husband and his grandfather constructed a stone fireplace, the stones came from the building site itself, each stone collected by me. I had made two piles of stones, one was of those I did not like, and one was of those I wanted the fireplace made from. I was not there the day my two masons built the fireplace, and they chose the wrong pile to take most of the stones from, but inserted here and there in the face were some of the stones from the "good" pile. But in a weird sense, them choosing more stones from the bad pile than the good made it all the more special. During the years we lived there, I would sometimes find my gaze seeking out individual stones, and I would remember the day it was found. The entire day would be recalled, the weather, the scents, the pure physical exhaustion we often felt after spending the day constructing the house, the happiness we felt.

Until a little over a year ago, through out all the rooms of my marital home, on shelves, tables or dresser tops, one would chance across a small pile of stones or fossils. Each small aggregation containing moments of my life, our lives, our story. The who, when, where, why of each moment I wished to remember was fully embodied in each small cairn, or heap. My children have their own special stones as well, I don't think we are unique, I think many do the same.

I have often wondered, if all the photographs and videos were lost, over time, would I forget the faces of those I've loved? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe...I don't really need these things to bring forth memories, but, these treasured stones bring it all back, with a very real sense of clarity. They are tangible proof, more real than a photograph, more real than memory alone. Embodied within these storehouses are moments. Joyful moments, awe-inspired moments, heartbreaking moments, memories.

When all is said and done, I want to dejunk my life, get of rid of the accumulation of things. These treasures...will be the hardest to let go of.


D G said...

I do family history, it's my hobby. Don't let go of the things that are you. Your decendants will treasure them.

Oh and, I envy your grease pit!

S'mee said...

Hi Sunny, the elderly 'junker' you described was my father. Even down to the grease pit. There was also a cabinet full of stones when I started to clear the garage, and four of everything just to keep one running.

I did keep a few of the stones, and most important to me, his pocket knife, which was his grand father's. It's in my pocket now.

I do wonder what my daughter or grand children will treasure of mine. Probably not my pocket knife.

Other than that, I've decided not to place any attachments on things. People and memories are more important to me.

Sunny Delight said...

dg: there are some things I know I will find it very difficult to let go of, in fact some I KNOW I won't.

Hello darling man, hope all is going well at your house. Pocket knives are very very special items, so many memories of one's father and grandfathers are tied to them. I truly believe your daughter and grandchildren will treasure yours.

Mary said...

My memories are all in my head. It's much more difficult for them to get broken in there :)

X. Dell said...

Hmmm. A lot of people who survived the Great Depression tend to be hoarders. These are people who knew the value of the old adage, "Waste not, want not." My grandmother was the same way.

Of course, one of the things about one's stuff: it reminds us of who we are, or at least who've we been. Sometimes, I think just the storing of them is sufficient to reinforce the memory. How many people never look at their family VHS tapes, for example? Then, some take them out and treasure them again, to relive a moment or two that were ideal.

Fiona said...

I've had to, a couple of times in my life, let go of all my 'things'. I don't find it too hard, maybe because here, with space limitations and constant moving from one apartment to another, it's well nigh impossible to hoard :)

Sometimes the 'things' can be a connection to the past, sometimes they become an anchor which slows us down. My belief is that we can afford to lose an anchor, but not the rudder. Unless we prefer to stay in one place.

That's how I look at 'things' from time to time, before I let them go. I honour my past but my life evolves.

The VHS videos, however, are real keepers, Sunny. I'd encourage a transfer onto DVD though, those damn videotapes are prone to effects such as heat, damp, etc. It would be awful to lose them :)

Mom to the Girls said...

Sunny, as always, I read you, then find pieces of myself I want to tap into. I'm the opposite in that I've never saved pieces of my past, but after reading, I think I might like to save some letters, photos or whatever... I guess it's never to late to change...
Thanks again, for being wonderful.