Well Intended / Moving: Asking the 3 essential questions
Published 5:25 pm, Thursday, August 18, 2011
I moved again. You know how it is when you move. You touch every single item that you own. Twice. And you question each one. Is it beautiful? Is it functional? Is it meaningful?
It wasn't my intention to be migratory. I had crafted a fantasy of marrying, raising children and nurturing a bit of land through the seasons of my life and to leave it -- beautiful. I wanted to plant asparagus, willing to wait years before the plants would bear a tender harvest. I wished to mark the seasons by the canning of peaches and installation of storm windows.
It's curious when we mourn things that we never had.
The imagined future is something we never possessed. So then why do I find myself sorry when my present doesn't align with my idea of what it might have been?
And, how many times have I achieved exactly what I thought I always wanted, only to realize that wasn't what I want at all; that, it doesn't suit at all?
The trick is to become nimble. Sometimes, the unplanned lives we manifest are better than those we might have designed.
I had the things that little girls wish for, once. There was a husband, a center hall colonial, two kids and a dog. We had enough of everything, except the stuff that really matters.
Only when we can look beyond the fantasy can we question. Is it beautiful? Is it functional? Is it meaningful?
When you move, you pack everything with care. We keep things that have special memories. I save a pair of ballet shoes, move after move. And I have a mechanical bird in a cage that my grandfather brought back from Germany. I have his camera too and look at items in my house through the clouded viewfinder wondering what the places and people he photographed looked like through the same lens.
We're tempted to hold onto items that we think should be useful in our current context. Even when they're not. I got rid of most of the high heel shoes I rarely wear anymore. My life doesn't call for much elegance. Yet, I can't part with the gardening tools that I've collected, even though I don't have a yard.
There are things we use only seasonally. I have a cake pan shaped like a gingerbread house. I couldn't dispose of it, though we only bake ginger cakes once a year. It's come to symbolize something that I am. I create traditions. They aren't complicated, but they're consistent. And I cook based on a season I love to fill the house with the aroma of ginger and molasses in winter as much as I love the bright glut of garden basil that becomes pesto in August.
And then, sometimes we're more practical than we should be. A few moves ago, I got rid of my books. I don't miss their heft, but occasionally I think of a quote and know exactly where it was on the page. Yes, I find it on the Internet or at the library. But there's the visual memory of it being there, on the top left of a yellowed page about a third of the way in.
And somehow, it feels strange to find it somewhere other than where I left it.
Our lives and the people in them keep growing. I don't save the childrens' toys, for the most part. Or the tiny clothes they wore when they could fit into my arms. I don't have all their art projects, only enough to let them know that I cherish their creative spirit more than the products they create.
We can keep an inventory of who we were but not one of who we will become.
I had a hope chest as a girl. It held "His" and "Hers" embroidered pillowcases and a set of silver dessert knives. I've never used either. There was a smocked baby dress that would have looked silly on my little girl. By the time I was old enough to marry, the idea of a hope chest was fairly out-dated. But that didn't keep me from collecting the things I thought would be useful in a marriage and in my future life. I didn't realize that I would no longer want the things I had packed and folded all those years ago by the time I was able to use them.
But other things that I brought to adulthood would serve me well. Curiosity, creativity and integrity go a long way.
As we begin life in a new home. I am emptying the last of the boxes. And with every idea, hope, and aspiration I am asking those same questions. Is it beautiful? Is it functional? Is it meaningful?
Krista Richards Mann is a Westport writer, and her "Well Intended" column appears every other Friday. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.