In the early 1960s, our school in Hamilton still furnished their classrooms with rows of old-fashioned wooden desks, attached to each other. They were marked up by decades of fidgety youngsters and leaky inkpots. When they were replaced by the newer, shinier individual desks, the old ones were stored in our barn for years, along with old milk cans and other stuff destined to be part of the antiques world some day.
And that’s how I ended up with this particular item, evidently the row’s back seat. It has a sentimental value, like many other things in my home. There’s the sampler I stitched in my 20s, reminiscent of the needlework young girls would make years ago. There’s the cookie tin that belonged to my Dad’s mother, the only tangible item we have that belonged to her. There’s the doll, wearing clothes that once fit a baby daughter. There’s the jazz singer statue we picked up in New Orleans. There are the children’s gifts and the Mother’s Day cards.
When we had to clear our parents’ home, we took the precaution of asking our aunt to go over things before they were recycled or discarded. They weren’t necessarily things that would be valued on the market. The old couch that we lounged on as teenagers was still in use forty years later. There were the leather hangers my uncle had made. There was the first radio my Mom bought with her first hospital wage earnings. It was costly at the time, but she had an amazing radio reception from her perch on the Hamilton escarpment, sometimes even tuning into Dutch broadcasts.
It’s Christmas time, and again we bring up the boxes from under the basement stairs. Many ornaments have been part of the collection for years. The tree is smaller, but the creche, Sinterklaas, the carol singers, the angels, the nutcrackers are arranged once more around the room. The wreath is hung up on the door, and the snowmen arranged in the front hallway. It’s not even for the kids, as the family Christmas isn’t here this year. It’s for us.
In a children’s book much beloved by my children, a young boy named Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge reaches out to an old woman to help her remember again. A shell stirred up memories of the wonderful summer days when she collected them on the beach as a child. Similarly, as we hold them in our hands, things seem insignificant, but they remind us of people and places and special times of our lives.
So, for now, they’re staying.