Over the years I have collected more than a few beautiful things that have been part of my life and my household: trays, serving dishes, decorative vases, small items of furnishing and so forth. Lately, though, I have become aware that I might have more than enough stuff, so I’m making an effort to pare down my possessions. My goal is to own no more than one of everything in the entire world (which is what it feels like I have every time I look into a chockful closet or try to squeeze open a jammed drawer.) I decided to give away all multiples and duplicates. (This does not include potato peelers, because one can never have enough potato peelers; anyway, they aren’t decorative so they don’t count.)
A few weeks ago, in preparation for a big family dinner, I counted ten candy dishes, all of about the same size. Three or four of them had belonged to my mother, and the rest were gifts. Now, since my present household numbers one weight watcher and one diabetic and the last time I served candy to guests was in 1982, I don’t really need ten candy dishes. I picked two beauties, both shaped like leaves, one silver, one porcelain, both from Tiffany, and offered them to my daughter. She said no thanks. She didn’t want them.
“I’d have to polish the silver,” she said. Then, noticing my open-mouthed reaction, she patted me and said, “Mom, you’re acting like Aunt G,” referring to a relative who used to give me items she cherished but which I didn’t need or want.
” I always took them with a smile,” I reminded her.
“I’d rather be honest,” my daughter said.
“Fine,” I said, in a tone that told her in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t fine, no matter how honest it was.
“Don’t be insulted, ” my daughter said. I didn’t answer. “I was only kidding,” she tried. Silence. Finally: “I’ll take them. I WANT them,” she said.
“It’s too late,” I said, “Don’t bother, you don’t appreciate them enough.”
Then we went through this half-serious, half-comic song and dance about yes she did and no she didn’t until I “gave in” and said all right you can have them, and then she “forgot” to take them home and I gratefully put them back in the closet. ( Laughing at the thought that she’ll get them anyway when I die.)
My daughter’s a great daughter, and I appreciate the honesty that allows such give and take, but she’s sooo wrong. Just as I was, about dear old Aunt G and all those items I so grudgingly took from her year ago. I have come to love the things I thought were not my style, were too old fashioned, or I just did not want. I am never impatient polishing a little bit of silver she gave me, because I imagine her doing it before one of her wonderful parties. I love the fussy, fancy little dishes shaped like flower petals that serve my poached pears so elegantly, and the large silver serving fork, the floral platter that didn’t match my dishes (those dishes which are now long gone) is just the perfect size for my big Thanksgiving turkey, which has rested on it each Thanksgiving for the last ten years. The mold in the shape of a fish, which I use when I make her recipe for salmon mousse, is the only thing that keeps me making the salmon mousse. I didn’t want any of them when she gave them to me, as I smiled my insincere smile, and now I treasure them, not only because I have grown into them, but because they remind me of her.
Which makes me think of my daughter’s turndown in another way – maybe she isn’t ready to have mementos of me, yet. She still has, and wants me, busy, using all my stuff, in the flesh.