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Not long ago, while visiting my parents, my mother and I were discussing a much needed painting as part of home renovations. We talked about the wallpaper I recently got rid of, and some she has hopes of retiring soon

Then, as now, I am reminded of the things that matter – that which we keep. I believe I commented, ‘the wallpaper isn’t bad but I’m not so endeared to it that I’d be hurt if you painted over’.

And yet, in retrospect, I realize there are other ‘things’ that I’ve been sentimental over at times, though the sentiment was tied to an associated memory rather than the physical. You’re probably struggling to understand, so let me give you some examples.

  • When I was eighteen years old, the house trailer we lived in when I was younger caught fire. It was rented at the time, and something on the stove got too close to something on the windows. Before anything could be done, it was too late. Mobile homes tend to be like Christmas trees; there’s not much waiting between flame and ash. I remember that we (my brother, sisters and parents) stood in the road and watched. We held hands, and I’m quite certain each of us cried. Though it was still just a ‘thing’, my mother commented on dresser drawers that bore my sister’s teething marks, and baseboards inscribed in crayon with my name (again and again). That which endeared the place to us wasn’t lost, and yet it was no longer a memory we could see.
  • When my parents moved from the park they owned, they found they couldn’t transfer the phone number to their new house because it was associated with the business. So, they got a new phone number. And I cried. Yesterday, even as I thought of this, I called the old number to see who would answer; as if some sixteen year old version of myself might pick-up. Since then, the area code has changed, but the affect wasn’t nearly as harsh.
  • My brother and sisters reminisce from time to time on an orange bathing suit our mother wore for as many years as we could remember, and a pair of plaid swim trunks daddy owned. Does it matter whether they were stylish? Does it matter where they are now? When I see a flower that color of orange, I feel it new, the same, deeply.

Easterners worn us of attachment, and I realize how easy it is to get tied into things that don’t matter, like the wallpaper design or whether you have the latest trend in ovens. For years, I bought clothes at upscale places. Now, I shop Goodwill, and savor the bargains. But deeper, I feel another association. My childhood is peppered with memories of trips to the ‘rag store’ (as my grandmother would call them), hiding under tables whenever she would cry out, ‘Bobbie, I found you some panties.’ 

That which we keep is that which becomes a part of us. It’s not a thing, and it’s not even a time. It’s a moment that exists still, as close as the scent of an orange honeysuckle, or in the feel of tags against my fingers.

It’s a favorite pair of earrings and words nearly worn thru.

When I started this piece, I thought on time. There are those who claim that I spend too much on the past. And yet, I would disagree. I spend my time (now) living and part of the joy in living is a love for how I got to this place. You see, despite what they say, time isn’t a thief. Time is your constant companion. When you are broken, it reminds you of the need to move forward. The real thieves are hatred, bitterness, resentment, and regret.  They take all you’ll give – health, relationships, and every bit of your joy they can get.

I’d make a lousy Buddhist.  I suspect part of the reason is that I’m a poet, and a keeper of stories (of the old ways). It’s not about ‘things’, but about everything, everything come of love.  Nothing matters; everything matters.

Someone near and dear reminds me that enlightenment is seeing things as they really are.  With time, I’ve come to revel in my wilderness….to linger softly with my tears,  to see with eyes (but more, with my soul).

May you cling warmly to the tender hands of time.

of another place
become of me –
has taken me to learn
e’en now my heart
grows full
beneath the weight
of blessings found
where I begin
to find my joys earned
a field beyond
my reaching
for the gate

. . .