Stuff… It surrounds us, it comforts us, it defines us, and if we’re not careful it can bury us. And when we leave, it is a mess for someone else to clean up.
I have a complicated relationship with my stuff. I began acquiring stuff when some idiot bank deemed me credit worthy. And because in the 70s and 80s the ability to spend borrowed money was somehow equivalent to financial responsibility, many more banks and retail establishments piled on board and I could buy pretty much anything I wanted. And I did, because I could. I tried in vain to fill all the empty holes in my life with books, CDs, clothes, cars, furniture, even houses. I must have been pretty successful! And after I managed to climb out of that hole, I married a spender and we did it all over again. He took most of his stuff with him when he left. Unless he couldn’t fit it into his new truck. Pretty steep learning curve!
There’s another kind of stuff. More important, or at least more honorable. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to exchange my work for wonderful art, pots, jewelry and rugs. Then there are the gifts and souvenirs, each piece evoking memories of the giver or the places we have visited. And lastly, there is my mother’s stuff.
My mother used to say to each one of us “What do you want when I’m gone?” to which we would all dutifully reply, “O Mom, we just want you to stay forever.” Which of course she didn’t do. Turned out that she promised many of the same things to different kids and grandkids, setting off a torrent of panic and greed in me. Somehow I believed that if I didn’t have back all the things I gave to her over the years I would lose her. It has taken a long time to repair the damage to the relationships with my sister and her family that this caused.
My mother’s stuff did not define her, and having it or not having it around me has not diminished my memories of her. So, now, while my memory is still intact, I have started asking my nieces and nephews “What do you want when I’m gone?”