The Joy in the Impermanence of Things
There's a house I drive by every morning when I drop off the kids that is full of knickknacks. I know the person who owns it and that they have a large collection of collectibles. For whatever reason, as I drove by this morning, I thought about what a sale it could be someday.
That sounds pretty cold, but living in an older neighborhood, you start to see the estate sale signs pretty often, and usually, that means someone has passed away or is moving into a retirement home. Life's transition, in a more obvious way.
I like going to them. Even with the companies that aid in a person staging their home for a sale, there's still a spirit left of the home it had been. One recently had a sunroom still filled with large plants and spare rusted tools, but the feeling of many happy hours, by someone caretaking shelves of plants, lingered.
One I went to years ago had me eyeing the costume jewelry collected over decades. As the organizers were talking, I realized that the lady who sat at the end watching people rummage through her things was the previous owner of the items. She seemed pretty calm and collected, but I can't imagine what she must have been feeling thinking about all the experiences that let her own the items in her home, like a specific piece of jewelry or an old grandfather clock that people were haggling over, and watching others debate if her things would fit in their lives.
There's nothing like an estate sale to make you wonder who will take care of your items when you are gone. Another estate sale I went to was in a one-bedroom, historic home with the smell of age that was not unpleasant but more like baby powder and a very specific perfume that probably announced the arrival of this person to the people she loved. There wasn't much value, but there were a lot of self-care items that were half-used, making me think that the owner was no longer with us: shampoo bottles, hairspray, body wash — all things valid to a life. Things that were now, for most people, trash.
When you move as often as I did as a child attached to the military, the items you can bring with you are the only things that have any permanence. But when I married my husband, he had a distinct lack of attachment to things and an intriguing attachment to people and experiences. We bonded over our mutual interest in experiences but clashed over the fact that I felt knickknacks, however dusty, were still a valuable part of my life. He's giving me space for that, quite literally, with my strange jewelry box collection now in our dining room. Or the only thing I requested from my grandparent's home when it was no longer a home: a bell my Oma would use to ring at Christmas.
The older I get, the more I realize how things only have value to me. I can take joy from them during my time, but most likely, their value will also end with me. I don't want to infringe upon my children's space; just because something has value to me, it doesn't mean it should to them.
Slowly, I'm slipping into enjoyment even more when I consider the impermanence of all the things around me, and more in those who are as impermanent as me, and the slivers of time we have together. Perhaps my children will take some things someday, things that made a life, but I hope the things will be small trinkets that will remind them of the experiences they had with me and that my memory will be the larger item they keep.
Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma.
She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.