“My mother’s favorite things were not my mother---they were merely her ‘things’---yet, though we like to believe that memories are as permanent as engravings in steel, even memories of love and great kindness are in fact frighteningly ephemeral in their details, and we remember best those that are linked to places and things; memory embeds in the form and weight and texture of real objects, and there it endures to be brought forth vividly with a touch.”
That quote gives me permission to be sentimental about objects that I enjoy having in the house. For example, I have a child’s size electric iron---about five inches long---that actually works plus the ironing board that goes with it. Can you image giving a child a toy like that today? It was mine when I was a kid and my parents can thank the gods of good luck that I didn’t burn the house down while ironing clothes for my paper dolls. Back when I was a kid girls were around nine-ten when we graduated to ironing with our mother’s irons doing pillow cases, handkerchiefs and other flats. The bigger I got, the more ironing became my responsibility and back then everything needed ironing. There was no such thing as iron free or wrinkle resistant cloth. When I was older and became a “career woman” I took all my ironing to a widow woman who pressed it perfectly while I was at work and I’d pick it back up on my way home. I hated ironing, still do and I base my whole wardrobe around that fact.
I’ve always credited the grandmother of my best friend growing up for my love of old objects. She had such beautiful tea cups and other things and each came with a story. My grandparents were all dead by the time I was two so my friend’s grandmother became the prototype, in my mind, for what all grandmothers should be. Now I’m the old woman with interesting objects that all have stories. Generation teaching generation. When Mrs. K. passed away after having had dementia for several years the person who did the eulogy said something I’ve never forgotten. He said that even after she lost her memory she was still of service to her family because her illness taught so many lessons in unconditional love. Those of us who’ve cared for a relative with dementia can relate to that.
I was Don’s caregiver for over twelve years and in those years I learned a lot about myself---my strengths, my weaknesses, what I valve, what I don’t as well as what Don valued and the depth of his character. I’d always known he was strong and determined but it was never so apparent than in those post-stroke years. He fought so hard for his limited recovery and he did it without complaint or the bitterness you see in so many other people who’ve had life changing disabilities. But there was another side to Don as well, a sweetly sentimental side that I remember every time I see his childhood teddy bear sitting on its shelf. Its form and weight and texture, like Dean Koontz said, brings back so many memories. Like the day Don got mad at the dog for playing with his teddy bear. It was the only time in all 42 years that I knew him that he ever raised his voice to any of the dogs we ever had. He was always the big, strong macho guy who carried my little dogs around every where we went and openly showered them with affection. But Sarah, Jason, Cooper and now Levi never got a chance to play with Don’s teddy bear again after Sarah’s first transgression. And this memory leads to another, of my mother telling us: “That dog as legs. Let him use them!" ©