Monday, July 3, 2017

What to Keep

Annamaria on Monday

I don’t have an attic anymore. 

I grew up in a two-family house where we shared the attic with my grandparents.  When I was kid, it had stuff in it like a Japanese sword captured on Okinawa and my mother’s bridal gown.

When the family moved for the first time in a few decades, the stuff in the attic got moved, too.  All if it.  Then, more accumulated.  When my dad sold the family home about twenty-five years later, three generations worth of stuff got moved to David’s and my attic in the country house, soon to be joined by two more generations' worth.

I had to triage all that drastically in 2012, when the last of my attics left the family.  I have been spending this Independence Day weekend trying to free myself from the dregs of what is left of about a century's worth of largely mindless accretion.  I have discovered some prizes and spent quite a lot of my time reminiscing and kvelling over the fact that I still have the following:

Three generations of wedding dresses: my mothers, mine from my second marriage, and my daughter’s.  Here they are with photos of the brides who wore them.


Hippy clothing:

David owned these shoes when we met.  One day I'll find the photo
of him wearing them on our first first trip together, driving the California Coast

The children in the commune told me what to draw on
these jeans and picked out the colors of the
embroidery thread.  

Best of all, theater memories:

These, some of my first Broadway shows, turned out to be legendary.  They are still vivid in my memory, and am I glad I hung on to the souvenirs!

April 1963: Emlyn Williams as Sir Thomas More

June 1958: Robert Preston in The Music Man, with
Barbara Cook as Marian the Librarian!

May 1961: Mary Martin as Maria

May 1964: Richard Burton's Hamlet.  I can still describe
the staging and tell you what Hume Cronyn wore when
he played Polonius.

So what do you keep?  What do you wish you had kept?


  1. Heh. The crap pileth to great depth. We've not yet begun the "cleaning out phase," but we have collected some things from many previous generations, as Sharon and I both became our "family historians." I have a cheap trunk (with a 'rounded top') that's maybe 18" long by 10" wide by 12" tall that belonged to my great-grandfather, the Kaser (Käser) forebear who brought our surname over from Switzerland in the 1860s. Also a porcelain bedpan that belonged to relatives in the early 1900s, and a host of other things. Then start in on things from my grandparents, parents, ... and then, of course, there's us. If/when we ever have to move, it will be far easier to just torch the place.

    1. EvKa, Life forced me to downsize. Otherwise, I very much doubt I would have done it. I am my family's historian--the only who cared about taking my grandmother's memorabilia when my dad sold the big, rambling old house in NJ. My cousins now ask, "How come you have all this?" In a tone that implies that I stole their birthright. One way of dealing with the "collection" has been to ship it off in stages to them. Torching would have been much easier. My heart would never have let me do that. Poor excuse. Poor heart.

  2. The wedding dresses are beautiful. I have nothing like them.
    I had to deal with all of my mother's possessions. Luckily, she had cleared out the family house before she moved out and into an apartment.

    And I have only a fraction of the amazing mountain of belongings she fit into a 3 1/2-room apartment. I got rid of a lot of it, giving much to Housing Works, which aids people with HIV and AiDS.

    But I still have a box of her pottery. She loved pre-Columbian art. I have a box of her art books, and assorted documents and family letters.

    And then I have some of my relics of childhood homework projects and lots of just stuff which I haven't figured out what to do with.

    Then a slew of work-related papers. A friend carried 31 pounds of these to Staples to be shredded at $1.25 a pound. Great solution, which I will continue to use.

    So, good luck to you, but I would save those lovely dresses. Does your daughter want to keep them?

    I start cleaning out boxes and closets, then I get distracted,but I must keep this up.

    1. Kathy, one of the MANY things we have in common is Housing Works. I made my most recent trip there to donate just this past Friday. Little by little I am digitizing the music. Whoever goes there this weekend looking for music CDs is going to come into a treasure-trove, and I have scores more to get through the process. My new shredder is coming on Wednesday. OY. OY.

  3. I bought two shredders, both destroyed by friends. So I gave up.
    Now some papers go down the compactor chute or they go to Staples for shredding. I do not shred.
    But, yes, Housing Works is great.
    One of their shops is near my house, so I just load up the shopping cart and off I go.

  4. I believe I still have everything I ever acquired from college on (exclusive of two wives), with the exception of a dozen lawn leaf bags of too tight fitting that I knew would never fit me and gave away a year ago. HOWEVER, I've since lost so much weight (intentionally) that I am kicking myself for having given them away! I'm also the repository for my children's things that they may want "someday."

    Hmm, I think I better reconsider...or enlarge and mothproof the barn...

  5. Have you read the Magical Art Of Tidying? It has changed the life of many people. The woman who wrote it is Japanese and they are taught how to tidy, as they are taught how to cook and sew. I am a hoarder but reading that book has made me think 'Well I have loved this. It's now time to pass it on so that somebody else can love it.' And it's not WHAT it is, it's how it makes you feel that is important.
    It was a good book, but I lost it under my huge pile of books. They are going nowhere..

  6. Caro, I heard that Japanese woman interviewed on the radio. She kept saying to keep only the things that bring you joy. If I did that, I would keep the wedding dresses and throw away the potato peeler and the vacuum cleaner. My place looks quite tidy ordinarily, unless you open the closets. Right now the dining room table is covered with random looking piles of paper, notebooks, and post-it notes. But that's because a historical novelist lives here, and she is trying to find her way into the next story.

  7. Keep the wedding dresses and family photos, and whatever the historical novelist needs for research and writing.

    A lot of the rest can go.

    I finally gave away a bag of tools that belonged to my mother, before that, my father.

    But I look at other containers with dismay. It will take a legion of aides with muscle to get this stuff out of here.

    I have my mother's pre-Columbia replica statues and am at a loss as to what to do with them. I have so many of my own pieces of pottery and various crafts that I do not need more. In New Yorkese, it's an abundance of tchotkes.

    I visited a friend whose apartment is neat and clean, no clutter, no papers. I'm amazed.