My Grandmother, Ruth Alexander, my grandfather, James Alexander, and my mother.
No. I don't know what year. I'm thinking...1945?
Lookout Mountain, Tennessee
It has been a full day of small things. I spent hours reorganizing cedar chests so that the pictures I have brought home can be kept safely and I have gone through so many of the pictures, as I said. I have thrown out a lot of stuff and have a box of things for Goodwill, a box for my brother. There is absolutely no change that you can see but still, there has been change. Good change.
I am finding, in going through my mother's things that I am learning a great deal about what to keep and what to throw away or pass on and I have been acting on that information for awhile now. The lessons that really got hammered home today for me are:
1. You will ALWAYS order too many of your children's school pictures and family portraits. Always. And then they will be stuck in a box somewhere, waiting to be freed, waiting to shower guilt on someone who will have to deal with them forty years from now. So go for the smaller package when ordering prints. I am giving you wise advice here.
2. When you go on a trip, do not take so many damn pictures. No one in this world will want to see them except for you, and even that is doubtful. I have thrown away entire rolls of prints today of pictures of various mountains and cathedrals and monuments and ocean views- all horrible shots, none of them the least bit interesting. Make memories, not necessarily photographs. And if you DO take photos from a trip, label them.
3. Label everything. I also threw away so many beautiful old black and white shots from the forties and fifties of friends of my mother's which I know at one time were important to her but are of no use to me or anyone I know at all. Put dates on things. And if you lose interest in a picture, or pictures, throw those away or delete them. JUST DO IT! Remember- this is your own history we're talking about and if it's not important to you, don't clutter up someone else's life with it.
4. Please. All of us should try to still use paper and pen and the post office at times. We may all still be communicating fifty-ways to Sunday but not in ways that will ever be discovered and reread in the future. In my brother Chuck's baby book I found cards and notes from people I remembered so well from my childhood. People who have almost achieved mythological status in my mind. To find notes from them, written in their own hands- well. It was something. I kept one that means everything in the world to me and will mean nothing to Chuck. When I die, it won't mean a thing to anyone and it'll be thrown away with my blessings. I found a letter that Mr. Moon wrote in 1987 declaring his love for me to "the world." I slapped that puppy in a frame. You bet! And you know what? One of my kids WILL want that. Maybe his or her kids won't, but that's fine.
5. Don't buy fucking crap. Crap, crap, crap that we all throw into drawers and end up in land fills. Cheap flashlights and fans and windchimes and gardening tools and flower pots and FUZZ SHAVERS. You know what I'm talking about. Sure, it's fun to go to Walmart (demon of the universe) and buy cheap crap but better to save your money and buy stuff that your kids might actually want someday and that will give you real pleasure as you use it. I'm talking about good knives, nice crystal, real picture frames, real jewelry, good clocks, nice linens, etc. And USE THEM for your own pleasure. Don't just put them away in a drawer. If you can find them in thrift stores or pawn shops or antique stores, all the better. Believe me- I know this for true- people donate some very fine things to Goodwill because they are just desperate as shit to get rid of things.
6. Do not assume you know who your parents are or have always been. You have no idea. I found a note written on a box by my mother a long, long, long time ago. It said, "This is a new pen. I love it."
That amazed me. I have always loved good pens and been obsessed with finding the best ones I can and some of my children have the same obsession but I never, ever knew my mother to use any pen except whatever freebie/cheapo pen was at hand. Or a pencil. And yet- at some point in her life, she loved good pens.
Who knew? Not me.
But now I do.
And dammit, I sort of wish I had that pen.
And I really wish I knew more about the relationship between that man and that woman up there at the top of this post. My mother's parents. I knew them as a child, I lived with them, and yet, what I know about their life together or as separate beings before that is ridiculously small.
Well. It's been a good day. A full day of small things.
And now I need to make our supper.
Life is interesting, y'all. I swear it is.