It’s Just Stuff, Right?

I look at the giant pile growing in my living room.  It’s all being donated.  I don’t have the energy to try and sell everything, so I’m gifting it to the universe.  I have a small storage space for a few items, but eventually I’ll probably give those things away too.  My belongings don’t hold meaning for others the way they do for me.  Members of my family have their own set of cherished items, so it’s unfair to unload my things on them in an effort to keep my stuff close.  I want to be free.  I want to travel, unencumbered.

But it’s still hard to let it all go.

 Christmas, 1984.

The Chair

I’m 17 years old and the living room is full of people enjoying coffee cake and admiring their gifts.  Then someone sneaks a strange shape, draped by a sheet, into the center of the room and I’m surprised when they say it’s for me.  As I pull the sheet away, I see a small wooden chair with simple lines, and I gasp.  It’s a beautiful little chair, but that’s not what makes me catch my breath.  The chair has been reupholstered in a blue velvet and in the center is an embroidery piece I made for my mother three years earlier.

At 14 years old I’d aspired to become a professional ballet dancer and so I’d spent every other weekend visiting my family and then returning to the boarding house near my dance school in Vancouver, BC.  The trip required a 4 hour ferry ride and to pass the time I pushed a needle, draped in thread, up and down through fabric to create a rose embroidered design.  I’d worked diligently, but some of the threads didn’t match and the shape was slightly lopsided.  Still, my mother smiled from her bed when I gave it to her.  She died 6 weeks later and I thought the piece had been forgotten…  until I lifted the sheet.

 Christmas, 2001. 

The Desk

She’s 8 years old and it’s time she have a desk in her room.  Not just any desk.  A proper one.  The children’s desks in my budget all seem to be made of particle board, metal and plastic.  That just won’t do.  I continue my search and stumble upon a consignment shop.  Elegant tapestry, oriental lamps, and grand dining room tables fill the space, but in the back corner I find it.  A beautiful antique desk, just the right size for my little girl.  My heart sinks when I look at the price tag.  As a single parent, on a teacher’s salary, $250 is going to hurt, but I know it’s probably worth far more.

I don’t remember how I got it home, inside, and gifted by Santa on Christmas morning.  I just remember the moment I saw it and knew it was perfect.

Christmas, 2013.

The Christmas Tree

I watch as my husband assembles the pieces of the white Christmas tree and when he’s done I fluff up each plastic branch.

When did I stop using real trees?

It stands in our bedroom, tucked in the corner with our dog, Yiska, hidden beneath.  We decide to keep the decorations simple.  Clear glass balls reflect the colored lights at night and with the click of a timer it lights our room from 5-10 pm.

“Let’s keep it up,” he says, shortly after New Year’s.  It seems a strange idea, but I have to admit I enjoy the atmosphere of the tree as much as he does.  Each night, as the room glows colors of red, blue, green, and yellow, we hold hands in bed and watch our favorite TV shows.

March, 2016.

As I take the tree apart, unhooking the white branches from their center, I say a little prayer to my husband.  Speaking out loud to the empty room.

“I love you, honey.  I’m going to miss our Christmas tree.”

Why can’t I have the sort of belief in an afterlife that he had?  His was an unwavering, comforting, and peaceful faith.

Instead, I try to believe because I desperately need to.  I have always tried so hard to believe.  And so I send my prayer to him, once again giving the idea of an eternal soul the benefit of the doubt since the alternative is unbearable.

I tape the box with the tree inside and stack it on top of the desk before pushing the embroidered chair back into place among the growing pile in my living room.

It’s just stuff, right?

***

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12 thoughts on “It’s Just Stuff, Right?

  1. sandi sherman

    At this time, my brother and I are cleaning out my mother’s home to prepare it for sale. This entry touched me deeply, because as I touch the things in my mother’s house, I am flooded with memories and feelings. But you’re right, it’s just stuff. What matters are the wonderful memories I have of my mother and father and our travels. Letting go of the things won’t erase the memories. Good luck in your journey to simplify your life and get strong enough to travel in your new home.

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  2. Margaret Ann Adams

    Beautiful, poetic memoirs…………………very touching……………….thank you for sharing the back stories of the stuff you are giving away to others who will make their own stories……………..Love, Margaret Ann

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  3. Tina Mason

    There are just a few things I cannot part with even though I know its just stuff. I keep a little box of special things that my daughter can dispose of when I no longer need them. If getting rid of everything makes you feel free, then do it. You will have a wonderful adventure without the worry of loosing things you once thought precious, after all they are just worldly goods and what matters is those you love, memories and enjoying life to the best of your ability. You are here for the journey and need to make sure you get the most from it that you can. You will do this Sara and find peace and love because it is within you. Warm hugs and hope to meet you on your travels xxxx

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  4. Pat and Linda

    Sara how true about “the stuff “. Interesting right now starting to shed “The Stuff” . It is very freeing and needed . Your writings touched us again . Hope you are doing well and getting close to doing your dream . We had been thinking of you and was glad to see your post this morning ! Sending positive thoughts your way ! Pat and Linda

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  5. Michael Hills

    Certain things are never just ‘stuff’ Sara. But the best things about ‘stuff’ are the memories that go with them. If ‘stuff’ disappears the memories will still exist. But sometimes it nice too see this ‘stuff’ again to jog your mind into happy memories! ❤ ❤ ❤

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  6. Linda Artley

    I’ve often had to deal with “stuff” as we moved about the country and then downsized. I still have my memories of when that stuff was used by my children or others. I don’t hold a lot of sentiments when it comes to the stuff and it has been hard at times as you have found it to be now. You have so much to look forward to in the coming months and you are just preparing for the freedom from the cancer and moving forward….one box at a time. Difficult now but freeing later when you pull out of that driveway with Sarandipity in tow. Love the process and the progress. Love You, my dear friend! Well written!

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  7. As always, my sweet friend…I am deeply touched and moved by your words. It truly is “just stuff”, but I have always had such difficulty in separating myself from my attachment to these items. They evoke special memories, and my need to see, feel, and touch them are real. I applaud your ability to separate yourself, and your desire to move on with life unencumbered by all the stuff that isn’t necessary. This next chapter will be filled with new adventures while you create wonderful memories during your travels. You are a strong and amazing woman, Sara!!! ♡

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  8. Jaydeen

    So glad to hear your words again. I check almost daily. Stuff is stuff unless it isn’t. Like others have said in the above comments. Being that you’re a photographer, maybe you take a beautiful photo to go with your memories, knowing that it’s someone else time to create memories with your stuff.

    Hope you are doing well

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  9. We just went through the process of downsizing to prepare for becoming a full-timer in our travel trailer, a whooping 340 square feet. It was one of the most liberating experiences I’ve ever had. And yes, there were a few items I could not yet part with and we stored those. But all in all, it was a lot of work the produced a lot of freedom. And that has been priceless!

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  10. Sara,
    I have followed you on your journey through the cancer trials. Thank you for taking us on your journey. I have prayed for your recovery. God is always good. He has a purpose for all of us.

    Stuff is difficult to let go of. We humans tend to value stuff to much. As they say ” you can’t take it with you”. I am sorry for the loss of your husband. I am glad he had his faith. I hope his faith was in Jesus Christ. As Christ himself said ” I am the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me”.

    You can believe. You first have to DECIDE to believe. Make a decision that you will believe. Then read the Bible. Read the Gospel of John first, then the rest of the New Testament. Read Lee Strobels ” The Case for Christ” and his other “Case” books. I believe that because you want to believe that God is calling you.

    I was an agnostic until He called me at the age of 53. My wife Sara and I are praying for you.

    Blessing.

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  11. Kelly Alden

    Sara, thank you for letting me in on your world through such eloquent writing. Tearfully, I connect with you in many ways, and you help me to gain perspective on some aspects of my own life… So many times, as I go through my work day, I wonder about all the many difficulties, fearful moments, procedures, and hassles that you and others must endure in order to become cancer-free and whole again. Then, I have to shut all that off, as it becomes overwhelming and attempts to take control. Reading your posts brings the person back into the chair and helps us all to go through this with you in a real and non-threatening way. It is what it is… And you will not only endure, but overcome and soar! ❤️ Kelly

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