My step-grandmother’s secretary desk has pride of place in our home opposite the front door. Yesterday, I began emptying this beautiful secretary, purchased in 1962 for $125. Baubles, birthday cards, baskets, and relics of childhood. Things my mother and grandmother kept, programs from Ian’s early performances, and things I had forgotten completely even existed. A pair of ancient fountain pens I will try to get working again.
I keep finding baskets and little boxes with buttons, necklaces, earrings I will never wear, campaign buttons and tiny objects without any use whatsoever. The music box will return to the desk, my grandmother’s slim leather briefcase with her maiden initials. The rest is going out the door to find a new home, leaving without regret.
Gary points out we are merely getting rid of things we do not both love and need. The “love and need” items still constitute quite a stash. It is only our half-joking effort at Swedish death cleansing, döstädning. A garage sale, giving things away, donations, etc. are an effort to make a little space in our home and in our lives.
The idea is to lighten our load, which has been burdened by being the last Priddy in my dad’s family, as well as the last in my mother’s family. Gary, with five siblings, brings less to this accumulation of stuff.
A few years ago a family member yelled at us for “not sharing” the family’s collectables. Truly, we would have been very grateful had this person taken more since they had first access to my mother’s house when it was emptied.
The family items I treasure were given to me long ago, a tiny pin, my great grandmother’s engagement gift, two lengths of wool jersey fabric that I have no more been able to cut and sew into a garment than my grandmother was. I am keeping it even so.
And there are the objects on display in the upper glassed section of the secretary. Most of these are not “family” but objects I made or collected.
The green elephant on the second shelf came from my grandmother’s kitchen window. She would remove her wedding rings and place them on the trunk when she did the dishes. There is a little white Persian cat on the same shelf that Mom found in an antique show held at Northgate. I was with her when she first saw the kitty, but it was only later in the day she went back to buy it. She gave it to me before she died in 2007. There is a Kay Finch ceramic goldfish and a porcelain greyhound. The celadon rooster is meant to decorate the table at holidays. Aside from small ornaments, all the little woven grass baskets I bought while I was in college and working at the University Book Store are waiting for review. Also the NW basket made and given to Gary in thanks for his work at Tulalip. We will keep all the baskets, but I am afraid many of them have things inside.
To be clear, we are not preparing for death anytime soon. We are accepting of our mortality, but having cleared the homes of too many relatives ourselves, we do not want to leave an unnecessarily burdensome task for our family.