In the past several days, my primary activity has been repairing my mom’s furniture (wood epoxy is a fine thing) and shuffling it around, trying to find space for it all, and sorting through eighteen cartons of books. There are some perils to inheriting books from a librarian with degrees in French, German, and Comparative Literature (not to mention Library Science and Management and Public Policy). I’ve also washed lots of china, glassware, cookware, and serving dishes (my mom had a small catering business on the side), and am in the process of polishing some brass and silver. A good friend helped me out immensely by taking some of the books off my hands; most of the rest — I mean, aside from the hundred or so that mean a lot to David and me — will go to charity or the used book stores. There were also four big cartons of cookbooks, which will go the same way, although I did hang on to all the Julia Child, James Beard, Fannie Farmer, and Craig Claiborne for David and me. (David hopes to eventually open his own restaurant.) For all the treasures and important memoriata I’ve found, there’s also lots of stuff that my aunt Carol (my mom’s executrix) and I packed in a hurry that doesn’t really seem to me to be worth saving, but that David might want. How important is it to save a porcelain cookie jar that both of you grew up with and that both of you snatched cookies from for the space of some twenty-four years?

To frame the question more generally: I’ve got all these material possessions here, in a space where my brother can’t see them, touch them, handle them. It’s easy to make value judgments on stuff that’s important to me; it’s a lot harder to make such judgments for him. And it’s compounded by the fact that there’s not enough room in my apartment for all this stuff. My dad and I crammed tight a storage locker with David’s stuff in Maryland; there’s just no room for anything more. So what do I do?

It’s pretty clear, I guess. I hold on to what I think is important, and ask David what he wants when he gets out. We’ve already discussed the broad inventory: I’m not going to go through a narrower thousand-item inventory with him. Neither of us are interested in that.

But I put myself in his place, and look at such a decision, and it distresses me: chunks of his history, things that he might not remember until he handles the items, get flushed down the memory hole. I’m not sure I can do that.

Anyway. Those are my excuses for having not blogged lately. I’m trying to get back into the swing of things, and I’m grateful for the comments, and know I’ve got some responding to do: thanks for the kind words, y’all. There’s still a dissertation in progress, I promise.

In the interim: can anyone tell me what this is? My mom had a dozen of them, sterling silver, inherited from her grandmother. They have a narrow lip around the bottom, which is 2.5 inches in diameter; the top is 3 inches in diameter, and the handle is 2.5 inches long. They fit none of my mom’s glassware, and, well, I really don’t think they’re napkin rings. Any ideas?


8 thoughts on “Excuses

  • August 6, 2004 at 8:28 am

    Those appear to be demitasse cup holders, I have some that are similar but the handlels aren’t as long.

  • August 6, 2004 at 2:06 pm

    Dr. B — thanks! Oddly, my mom doesn’t seem to have had the actual demitasse cups to go with them, so I suppose I’ll just have to throw a pretend tea party, where we can all sit around with our demitasse holders, sipping air. With pinkies extended, of course.

  • August 6, 2004 at 2:09 pm

    Sipping air, ha!

    You’re in a tough position with the inventory and your brother not able to look through it with you. Couldn’t you put it all in a storage facility until he’s available? Or would that me too inefficient?

  • August 6, 2004 at 8:24 pm

    Michelle, you’re absolutely right, and I was completely over-analyzing and over-intellectualizing the situation. Put everything in boxes and wait until he gets out and say, “Hey, Dave. I thought you’d be the best one to make a decision on this stuff.” Thanks for the voice of common sense.

  • August 6, 2004 at 10:32 pm

    Oh. Well, sure, you’re welcome. I didn’t know if there was some reason I wouldn’t know about why you couldn’t store it but I knew you’d just hauled it back so I thought maybe it wasn’t feasible from that standpoint.

    The line about the cookie jar was a little heartbreaking, btw. I think my mother still has the same cookie jar, too.

    Hope it all works out. 🙂

  • August 7, 2004 at 1:34 am

    Yeah, performing family triage is really tough. My brother Mike and I were the prime sorters at my parents’ place after Mom had died and Dad was in a nursing home. I did software (pictures, papers, books) and Mike did hardware (tools, bowling trophies). Mike filled a dumpster and I created seven packages, one for each of the siblings. Mike and I took our packages home to California on the plane. The two Cleveland siblings tooks theirs by car. And the Wash DC three got theirs by FedEx. I think you are very smart to let David make some of his own decisions. It’s amazing how each sibling had emotional attachments to different material goods: the sewing machine, the Victrola, the glassware. I just wanted words and images.

  • August 7, 2004 at 2:13 pm

    I think part of the difficulty I had is that the prison system has made David so helpless, for so long, that I habitually think about how to do things for him. It took Michelle’s good sense to point out to me that there was a much simpler option — and I now see that this is one instance where I can’t let David be helpless, for his sake and for my own. I wonder how much the helplessness that convicts learn in prison contributes to recidivism.

    But yeah, the different types of things that we’re attached to is amazing. David and I worked out all the big stuff in letters to one another; I was mostly interested in furniture and books, and he was mostly interested in kitchen stuff and dinnerware. It came out well.

  • August 10, 2004 at 2:09 pm

    I haven’t sat down and really read blogs for the past few days, so Michelle beat me to it, but I’ll say it again anyway: yes, put it all in storage!

    As I read your question about the cookie jar, my heart clenched and I said, of course, it’s vitally important to save it! At least until you and David can look at it together. And even then…

    It’s a little scary to me how strongly I feel this.

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