From One Old Thing to Another



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.

About betteann

Writer, teacher, cook
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7 Responses to From One Old Thing to Another

  1. Claire O’Brien says:

    I volunteer at Peoples Place and you would not believe how often I have this conversation with donors. “Youngns” just don’t want the “stuff”!!! Think it might have a lot to do with women finding their way in the work force and not being valued for their homemaker skills. Who needs to polish silver when …….. etc. Thoughts????

    • betteann says:

      Yeah, maybe. But no, it’s a matter of style, I think. The excuse of it being too “homemakery” for the busy “new woman” doesn’t hold up because polishing silver is its only instance. The rest of it you can always put it in a dishwasher. I just think everyone perceives the last generation’s stuff as old fashioned and their generation of stuff as new and improved. And it only becomes valuable with perspective and time. ( If ever.)
      Love to hear from you.

  2. Patty says:

    Such a wonderful post that I can so relate to at this stage of my life. I have so many collections which are so much more than just “stuff”, at least to me. When our oldest daughter comes to visit, I constantly remind her about things both valuable and precious that I want my family to have at some point. I didn’t have that luxury with my late mother who managed to discard so much before I realized Alzheimer’s had taken control. When the time came to empty her home, it was so overwhelming and very sad. I don’t want this for my children.

    After reading your words, I took a long hard look at my library of books, especially cookbooks. Of my cookware and Italian ceramics and Christmas items…now I’m overwhelmed. Thank God for my grandchildren who are quick to remind me, without any drama, that “when you’re gone, we’ll take care of all your collections!”

    I honestly don’t know if I should laugh at that…or cry!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Ellen Levine Davis says:

    I hadn’t read this. I so agree with Lynn. Being honest is “your thing”. It surprised me that it bothered you. I think your reasoning at the end is most likely correct.

    Something you gave me years ago has been tucked away in a special keepsake type box. It’s not my style, but it’s so you. Just the fact that it’s from you makes it so special, and I look at it and read the note often. Maybe one day it will be my style- but it will always be one of my MOST treasured possessions!!

    Aunt Bette, I love how you write and it always makes me think 🤔. I don’t remember Jason and I being at a big family dinner in quite a while 🤭🤭😜

  4. genkazdin says:

    My daughters are here right now. They are down in the basement doing what I can’t yet do – disposing of the many multiples I have put together over all these many years. I am not ready to put that part of life behind me. I do not want to erase those years and live as though they never happened. They did. They were my best of years. Logic, reason, and practicality have little sway when emotion and memory are the opposing team.

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