As I prepare for the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, I dusted off what appears to have been an attempt to free write alongside my students a while back. It’s rough, but it’s written. And sometimes, that is enough.
I look around my house and see piles of junk. I clean my kids’ bedroom and resist the temptation to toss out entire toy bins of cheap plastic happy meal toys. I dust around Calder’s nature collection of twigs, sticks and every shape and size rock he could carry in his pocket. These “treasures” seem only to add to the clutter that I feel is already suffocating me. And yet, these children are learning to attach feelings and associate memories with these trinkets. I’m still undecided as to whether or not that’s a good thing. As for these stones, I’d bet Calder could recall where he was when he found each one too.
Just over a decade ago, I remember a certain stone that forever changed my life. It sparkles and shines, and is very old. It represents not only our commitment, but one that spans generations. One of three stones from his grandmother’s ring, this gem is about more than carats and clarity. As one of two women who now wear a family heirloom on our hands, there’s comfort and pride in hold a piece of that family history so closely entwined with our own future.
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As far as chairs go, this one is far from comfortable. It lacks any sort of cushion that would make rocking a fussy baby in the early morning hours that much more bearable. The joints squeak and creak with each forward and backward swing. It’s sturdy construction and low-back design has enabled it to fit perfectly in some corner of each of our homes.
I know the story of how my great-grandfather took my mother to an auction. “Every nursery needs a rocking chair,” he said helping her into the car. I imagine the way she likely rubbed her pregnant belly and shifted uncomfortably as her back began to ache after being on her feet for hours. Having never met him, it’s as if I can still see his skinny arm raising to bid on the chair. After winning, I picture him loading it into the back of his pick-up and hauling it to the apartment.
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In a protective layer of newspaper and bubble wrap, tucked tightly inside a priority mail box, in a safe place of our attic lies a plate given to us by Great Papa. I remember going to his house one afternoon on a trip up north, knowing there was something he said he’d wanted to give us. We sat and listened as he shared the story of family members in generations past settling in the area and how this was one of the last pieces intact. I watched as he wrote details on small lined paper outlining what he had said. The lines of his cursive neat and precise, like those in letters and cards that still bring tears to my eyes. This patriarch of the family, and the founder a legacy I am proud to have married into, has a heart like no other. To be entrusted with this piece of family history is hardly about a piece of decorative china.
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So when I look around and get overwhelmed by clutter, I think about what’s really important. It’s not the things, and frankly there’s so much we could do without. It’s about being part of something bigger than ourselves. Connecting the past to the present and planning for the future.