Prized possessions — Memories and reflections
Please join us in reading this week’s post written by former WFL Intern, Ana Rader.
He wasn’t materialistic, my grandfather. Nor was he cheap. He did, however, unashamedly love the exhilaration of finding a good bargain, or, even better, of winning free “stuff.” The basement of my grandparents’ house pays homage to the fruits of five and a half decades of flee-market browsing, contest-entering labor—three grills, four vacuums and two talking mechanical parrots are a few of the grander prizes I remember Popop winning in my lifetime. On his weekly visits to our house, he would come with trinkets for my brother and me — a bag of stale candy from a car dealership, a jumbo pencil from Citizen’s Bank — small pieces of junk gained by signing up for hundreds of mailing lists. Home for Thanksgiving my freshman year of college, I received another such token, and I’ll admit I have no recollection of Popop’s story behind it. What I do remember is the look of pride and excitement on my grandpa’s face as he bestowed this gift upon me at long last, having not seen me in nearly three months. I feigned enthusiasm, tried to act appreciative, and let my mind wander to college-related things.
This token, this gift Popop gave me, is a red, faux-rhinestone bracelet- the kind that stretches to fit over your hand. The kind that catches on your clothes and snags them with its cheap, poorly crafted metal edges. It’s the kind of rhinestone bracelet that pulls on your arm hair, and the kind of red that will make even the most understated ensemble look tacky. Above all, it’s just so, so random. Despite these attractive attributes, I kept it, and still have it over three years later, as I keep all things. Literally, all things. To my mother’s dismay, my closet at home is stocked with old notebooks, birthday cards, even a jar of the ‘fairy dust’ left on my pillow by the tooth fairy when I was a kid. Like my grandpa, I wouldn’t consider myself materialistic. I guess I just attach meaning to too many things—okay, to everything. For me, it’s not about possessing the stuff, the objects, it’s about how much I love going through a box of said stuff and remembering how I acquired them, their story, my story. I love memories, and I love remembering—even cleaning out my wallet is a sentimental ordeal, as I look through receipts and ticket stubs and recount the events they represent, who I was with, how I was feeling.
As you can probably imagine, this habit of mine can be a bit burdensome as I get older and, like Popop, collect more junk. Who am I kidding- it’s actually a huge pain. Like any antique, the longer I keep something, the more sentimental value it gains, and the prospect of getting rid of it becomes more tragic. Think about an heirloom or other item that has particular meaning to you. Now think about having a closet full of items equally precious. Now add in four dresser drawers, a small bookshelf, and three shoeboxes worth. It’s maddening. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and I hate it.
Three weeks after receiving the red rhinestone bracelet and returning to school from Thanksgiving break, I was studying for my last exam of the semester- Social Analysis. I was ready, eager to take the exam and complete my very first semester of college. Then, my phone rang—my dad. He told me Popop was in the hospital, and, at nearly 85 years old, had elected to have open-heart surgery the following day so that he might spend a few more months with my family, with me. The catch, of course, was that his chances of surviving even the operation were fifty percent at best. It was my choice whether or not to come home and see Popop before the surgery, and I did, in conditions Spielberg would have himself prescribed: the middle of the night, the pouring rain, an exam that would just have to wait.
Home at last, I found the red rhinestone bracelet on my bedside table, and put it on before going to have what indeed was my last conversation with my grandpa. The day of and eight weeks following the surgery were volatile as he struggled to recover, but never did. Popop’s gift, that flimsy, tacky, annoying red rhinestone bracelet, gave me something tangible to hold on to during weeks when nothing was certain. Now, the red rhinestone bracelet makes me laugh and makes me cry all at once, as I am reminded both of Popop’s quirky ways and of the endless love he shared with my brother and me (his “favorite” – and only – grandchildren). I am reminded of that Thanksgiving, the last time we were together as a family, a time I did not for a second think would be the last. Somewhat ironically, with this bracelet, I am reminded that, rather than depending on an object to represent the moment later on, I should practice patience, listen carefully, and more wholeheartedly appreciate time spent with loved ones as it is happening.