My mother has been cleaning out her house. Or at least, my brother's room.
This is, in theory, an excellent thing. My
mother has lived in the same house since she was two years old. Though
over the years before they moved out, her two brothers took things that belonged to them, there
is still a good almost-seventy years' worth of accumulation of things there, and after my extremely organized Type-A father died in 2003, there was
no longer anyone left in the house to do periodic purging. She borders
on hoarding behavior, her basement pantry stocked full of condensed soup and
canned vegetables and brownie mix and pasta (we recently found cake mix
there that had expired ten years ago), and every bedroom piled with her
clothes and bills and paper and shopping bags with items still in their
original packaging, tags attached. I worry sometimes about what will happen if she downsizes, and selfishly, I worry, too, about the inevitable unpacking of her life that I will have to do some day, even if she never leaves her house.
I know that children
create clutter, and I've claimed quite a few things from my
mother's house over time. Books. Clothing. Random pillows and
throws. Notebooks. So, so much paper.
But I know there are also
still many things left, remnants of another someone I used to know, like
that overplayed and over-covered Gotye song.
birthday, my mother presented me with two canvas shopping bags of things
belonging to me, which had been living in my
brother's room: one bag containing two sets of artist-quality colored
pencils, a set of watercolors, and a large box of crayons that probably
date back to the late 1970s; the other containing a pile of awards and
plaques. My spelling bee plaque from the eighth grade.
My ten-year Excellence Award plaque from my dance school.
A plaque recognizing my service as the leader of the Children's Choir
at my Catholic church, from my senior year of high school. Another
congratulating me on my performance on the National Spanish Language
exam. And on, and on.
The first bag was easy to deal with. I gave
the colored pencils and paints to my art-obsessed son and the crayons to my
crayon-obsessed daughter, who has already made them her own.
The second was not so easy.
I've moved seven times in my life. I am no stranger to the process of purging things, because there was no space in the car or the moving truck or on the bookshelf or in the cabinets. I regularly recycle and Freecycle what we no longer need. So it's odd to me that I'm left wondering what to do with these things,
feeling on the one hand like I can't get rid of them (besides, the green citizen
in me wonders, how does one recycle a plaque, anyway?) and on the
other hand that I need to reduce the clutter in my life, not add to
it. This green canvas bag full of the past made me feel both like I need to retain this physical connection to
that past, so I can pass it on to my children, and because--as Lori Lavender Luz puts it so beautifully in her post "Presence"--all of my past selves are me, and yet also like I have no need
for physical attachment to that part of my past, to that person I no longer
My past lives have been on my mind. We're going out to LA in less than a week; it
will be the first time I've been there since I left in early 1998, fourteen and a half years ago. It will be a trip full of bitter, and sweet, and salt. We will visit my old street, my old
apartment complex. We'll eat cake down the street at Sweet Lady Jane
where, alone, I mourned the loss of a brilliant and generous-hearted college friend to a rare brain cancer, celebrated small triumphs, recovered from the traumatic experience of oral exams. We'll walk past the alley where I was mugged at gunpoint. We will step into the Pacific Ocean, the place my then-boyfriend took me in the dark of night when I first landed in the west coast for the first
time eighteen years ago, knowing that I needed to touch the west. We'll see some old friends. I can't put my finger on why, but there was something about this act of remembering that has been important to me lately. LA and I parted ways on less than friendly terms, but recently, I've felt like I needed to go back; I was ready.
I've shelved the plaques for now, in a place where I won't see them, where they will gather dust, like old memories do. They'll stay there, and I suspect I will eventually forget about them, until I'm deep cleaning, moving, reorganizing. I'll pull them down and look at them, and probably move them again, to somewhere else out of sight. Maybe then I will know what to do with those fragments of the past; or perhaps, some day someone else will have to decide whether those artifacts are important enough to keep.
What physical pieces of your distant past do you hold on to, if anything? What artifacts do you wish you could get rid of, but can't? What would you do with a pile of old plaques?
Rosemary-Lemon Butter Cookies
These cookies were made by fellow blogger Susan of A Less Processed Life for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. I've added a bit more lemon juice and zest, because I liked the pairing of tangy with sweet and salt. Sort of like memory, come to think of it.
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1 large egg
1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 t. fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 c. sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T. finely chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 t. kosher salt
1 1/4 t. lemon zest
coarse sanding sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 350.
Stir together the flour, rosemary, salt, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Set aside.
the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat until combined, then gently beat in the flour mixture until the dough just comes together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured workspace and pat into a 6"
round; cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 10 minutes.
On a lightly-floured workspace, roll the dough to 1/4" thickness and cut into desired shapes.
Place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle each cookie with coarse sanding sugar and bake for 20-22 minutes or until lightly golden on the edges.
Cool on a wire rack and store the
cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three