June 1, 2021
If you’ve ever expected a child, then you know something about the “nesting” period when suddenly you realize, instinctively, that the time is NOW to finish getting the nursery in order, counting the diapers, tidying up the house, and putting extra meals in the freezer because something waiting to be born is coming. Lately, I’ve felt like I am back in the “nesting” period—though no baby is on the way—and that the time is NOW to put some things in order. Part of that nesting is a current need to de-clutter, and my need led to the attic.
American attics are a sight to behold. They certainly say much about our abundance, love for materialism, and our strange obsession to hold onto—or even hoard—so many things, which is a blog in itself. But attics also reveal the history of our lives, including joys, lost dreams, love, and change. At least that is what I discovered myself a couple of days ago as I began the challenging task of cleaning out our American attic. What was I called to keep? To give away? To throw away? To remember?
Some of the choices were simple, including computer satchels we had stored for computers we no longer own. Why had we even kept them? Or the suitcase that had been manhandled at the airport one too many times. Why hadn’t I tossed that one earlier? But there were other items that told stories of my life and the lives of those I love:
- The punch bowl with its tea-cup sized glasses given to me in the early years of marriage by my mother-in-law who is now in her final stages of Alzheimer’s disease . . . . Every young woman needed a punch bowl to entertain properly, but gone are the days of hosting baby showers, and these days a metal tub holding beer and wine works just as well at parties. Yet the punch bowl is a symbol of my mother-in-law’s constant love for me even as she forgets who I am.
- The ceramic lamp fashioned into a Victorian-styled girl with two blonde braids painted by my aunt, for me, when I was twelve. . . . . I recall visiting her once a year on vacation and sitting in her musty, dusty ceramic shop where she invited me to choose anything I’d like to paint. The ceramic angel I made there, hands folded, finished in a shiny cream glaze, sits on my desk, a reminder of my childhood and innocence long gone and an aunt, overweight and jolly, who paid attention to me.
- The maroon trunk that my daughter used to take every year to summer camp. . . . . Why was it still in the attic? When I opened the trunk, it was filled with her teen-aged summer shorts and t-shirts. I shook out each piece and recalled what she looked like wearing it and how she acted and the pure joy she experienced at that special place. Her journey has not been an easy one since then as she has traveled the road of depression, harassment, divorce, relocations, and I have cried many tears for my beautiful daughter with her courageous spirit and I have wondered why. The clothes, all in good shape, will be given away, but the trunk stays for now, reminding me of her strength and perseverance and of all our distinct yet mutual journeys.
- The car seat we have kept with hope since the birth of our first grandchild eight years ago . . . . My son and daughter-in-law expected and planned for a houseful of children. But that’s not the way life has turned out. It is a miracle, pure and simple, that they have a child and that we are blessed with a granddaughter, our one and only. The car seat symbolizes acceptance of what is, and it is time to give it to someone else.
And so many other items and objects that are part of my life story, my personal history, that remind me of a time, a place, a person that is no longer. As I take each item—the punch bowl, the lamp, the clothing, the car seat–to my car for delivery to a charity thrift store, I try to focus on two lessons: the first is that The Creator has nudged me to create space, not only in my attic but more importantly in my heart, for whatever I know instinctively is waiting to be born. The second lesson is to bless each item with gratitude for what it gave me, and now, for what it will give someone else as it becomes part of their own story.
I am reminded again in the wisdom of the attic that life is all about letting go:
A window closes
another story ends now
Open palms reach high
It is what all spiritual teachers try to prepare us for–letting go of what was, what could have been, what might have been, what did, in order to be open to whatever is waiting to be. Our lives are not so much processes to be explained but mysteries to be lived, not with clutched hands and hearts because we fear loss, but with open hands and hearts because we trust. Blessings to you ~ Rosemary firstname.lastname@example.org.