“How thrilling to let go of old-self images that no longer reflect the real me,” writes Lisa Schwarzbaum in her essay, “Age of Enlightenment.” (More, Feb. 2014, pg. 124) She’s describing her feelings as she disposes of clutter that once passed for mementos. Primary among these is a set of pâté knives given to her mother and later passed down to the daughter. Having to make a choice between keeping the knives or abandoning them in her move to a new job and life, she realizes, “I’ll never be a woman who uses pâté knives,”( Ibid, pg. 124). The decision frees her and allows her to recognize whom she has become.
If I could talk with Sachwarzbaum, a young woman focused on the future, I’d advise her that “whom she really is,” will change over the course of her lifetime. Another 10 years and the T-shirts she can’t live without will go, not because they are old, but because she’ll no longer be a woman who wears T-shirts. Life is a constant shedding of non-essentials until we reach our core.
Like Sachwarzbaum, I have kept treasures long passed their purpose. For 30 years, I’ve cherished a porcelain chocolate serving set I bought at an auction. The cups are so fragile, I can almost read by the light shining through them. Knowing their age, over 150 years old, I’ve never considered myself anything but their caretaker. I’ve only used them once. Their beauty intimidates me, the border roses looking fresh, as if they could easily be bruised.
I was thinking of the chocolate set one day when a friend came by to visit. She’s a dozen years younger than I am – young enough to entertain yet old enough to appreciate antiques. When I said I wanted her to have my chocolate serving set, her expression turned from one of amazement to utter delight. Her smile was my reward for letting go.
With two hands, she held one cup toward the window, marveling, as I had done so many times, at its delicate perfection. “When I can no longer use these,” she said gazing at me, “I’ll give them to my daughter.” Her voice was reverential as I hoped it would be.
I like the idea that I have created an heirloom, one that will pass through generations of my friend’s family, accompanied by an account of how the set came to be in their possession. Stories are valuable, too.
Today, I am no longer a woman who serves chocolate in egg shell cups. Today I am a writer with enough time, I hope, to share my stories.
(Courtesy of ebay.com)