This was written 4 days after Christmas last year on my blog iembracechaos.com.
What is out of the ordinary? Choosing to help others and live differently in a way that changes life as we know it. My kids really didn’t seem all that bothered by the lack of gifts they got from me. They still received the mandatory 27+ gifts from my mother, gifts they will never give a second thought to once they are put away. They were both on board with the plan of donating money to their favorite charities, but I just wasn’t so sure come Christmas, they would still feel that way. I was pleasantly surprised. Christmas evening, after the kids came home, we rented a few movies and enjoyed some time together. After all, I had not seen them for almost a week.
Yesterday we ventured into the stores, only for the purpose of grocery shopping and finding a small rug for my closet floor. No store was exempt from the typical long return lines and post-holiday sale events. Seriously, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
I decided yesterday to clean out my closet and get rid of the mountain of unused linens. Why do I feel the need to hang on to stuff that I will never use again? I made the compulsory closet purge, filled up the Infiniti sleigh and headed for the thrift store.
After unloading our surplus of worldly possessions, we went treasure hunting. No, not shopping, treasure hunting. Shopping is buying overpriced new ‘goods’ at large chain stores. Treasure hunting is finding something special, previously owned by someone else at a price that doesn’t break the bank. My kids quickly made their way to the toy section, disappointed that it was mostly baby toys. I headed for the crowded book area, my kids not far behind.
I found a Man Ray photography book for 50 cents, which in the bookstore, was probably closer to $50. Man Ray is one of my photography inspirations, mostly for photograms. My photogram ‘Coffee Addict’ is one of my favorites… not that I have coffee issues or anything like that.
Cole found a Star Wars picture book, which he kept directly in front of his face in the entire time we were there, miraculously not walking into anyone or anything.
As we were making our way toward the front of the store, I stopped to see if there were any jeans or sweatshirts for the boys. I guess everyone has been doing their Christmas purge, as the racks had three times the amount they usually do. I found this t-shirt that pretty much sums up what society is teaching our kids. “WARNING: allergic to lame gifts.” I wanted to buy the shirt just so I could destroy it and take it out of the clothing circulation. I would have saved the small candy cane skull icon though, as it seems appropriate to use as a symbol of our cultural Christmas consumerism.
As we neared the front of the store, Joe didn’t seem to bothered that he didn’t find anything. That is, until he turned the corner to find a kid-sized guitar, complete with stand and strings. His little face lit up and I knew that guitar would be coming home with us before he even asked. I don’t know much about musical instruments, but just the stand alone probably would have cost $19.99, which was the price for both.
We stood in the very short line at the checkout, quickly making it to the register. The lady at the counter was very nice, talking to all three of us as we were paying for our purchases. The last item rung up was Joe’s guitar. The lady asked who it was for and I pointed to Joe. I explained to her that he has been wanting to learn how to play, but the full size guitar I bought a while back, still has no strings and was really too big for him. She told me, with a very sad face, that this guitar belonged to her son… her son that had passed away six years ago, and she finally had the courage to part with some of his things. I promised her that it was going to a home where it would be appreciated and loved.
As we were leaving the store, Joe asked me if the guitar belonged to another kid, as he overheard part of our conversation. A little uncomfortable with his completely appropriate question, I tried to shuffle him out of the store so I could explain about the previous owner. The lady heard him and said, “It belonged to my son and he’s in heaven now.” What does anyone say to that? There are no words that could have lessened her pain or brought him back.
As we climbed in the car, there was grief-stricken silence. A silence broken only by discussion of the young boy that we never knew, yet felt so attached to at that moment. Both kids had many questions about the boy, “How did he die? Are you sure he really died? How old was he? What happened to him? Why did his mom still have his guitar?” They were asking questions I would never have answers to, and questions I’m not sure they thought would be answered. I had the same questions in my head, but speechlessly saying a small prayer that the lady would have some peace around her son’s death, a situation where I cannot comprehend a peace could possibility exist.
We tend to surround ourselves with things we like, stuff that entertains us or makes us happy. Material things are not evil, that is, unless we order our lives around them instead of people and relationships. I don’t see a problem with a bound portfolio for artistic inspiration, a book for imagination and fantasy or a guitar to learn self-expression through music. Inanimate objects are visual triggers for remembrance, things that pull memories from deep within our minds, surfacing them as current thoughts for enjoyment, reflection and sometimes necessary action.
Are all of my non-essential possessions useful or meaningful? Not entirely, but I can honestly say that most of them have some meaning or story behind them. I don’t do new year resolutions, but I will challenge myself to be more aware of my attachment to belongings. I guess belongings is a good word for this, as it is broken down to ‘be longing’.