High above my kitchen sink, on a decorative shelf is an old metal toy train car. It was a gift. It’s not very pretty. It was found abandoned in an old sand box. But the little girl who gave it to me was so proud to present it to me so I put it up on the shelf. Years passed and whenever she would enter my kitchen she would always point it out. Almost always saying “I can’t believe you still have it.”
This past summer we hosted a Fourth of July brunch in our back yard. As I have at numerous other summer gatherings, I used three old table cloths on the picnic tables. I guess you would call them vintage. They were the simple cotton cloths that my mother used. White squares with colorful designs printed on them. Blue, banners and red flowers, and one with a sunny map of Arizona. They are of course showing their age. But I think they look so cheerful that I always bring them to our outside parties.
And now it is winter time and I have been thinking of my mother’s tablecloths and that little toy train. My mother died 30 years ago, in December a few days before her Christmastime birthday.
The little girl with the train, all grown up and married, did not see this past Christmas either. She died in the fall several weeks before her fortieth birthday.
So I am thinking again about those things we keep. The things that inextricably find themselves connected to memories sometimes good, sometimes sad, but our memories non the less.
Recently, I asked some friends if they had any keepsakes without obvious financial value, and if so, what were they? I found that their treasures had much in common with my tablecloths.
I was interested to find that there were overlaps in some of the keepsakes. I’m not the only one who has kept the final drivers license of a late parent. And there were birth certificates, love letters, and even the hunting license of a 15 year old boy who would grow up to be the father of six daughters.
As we make our way through life there are those things we cannot avoid. The old adage about death and taxes as inevitable misses the mark on what truly matters. Memories, and the things inexplicably tied to them, those are the truly unavoidable things in life. And if we are very lucky, the old tablecloths, toys, and licenses will become talismans to sweet memories. Perhaps these things will prompt a smile albeit with a tear or a tightening in our throat.
I’ll continue to use the old cotton tablecloths on summer tables. The old metal train car will remain on display in my kitchen. They connect me to those I have loved who are lost to me now…..but not forgotten.
I’m just say’n.