When I was a little girl there was a family that my own family was friends with, that had a mythical proportion in my head for some reason. Childhood plays funny tricks on us like making us believe that our parents are super human, or that we will live forever, or that someone out there actually HAS all the answers we are looking for in this universe.
This other family's name was the Shanleys. Not only were our parents friends, but my oldest sister Nan dated Jimmy and my other siblings were real friends with their children. Being number 11 out of a brood of 12 meant that when the other kids got to go off to sleepovers my younger brother Mark and I did not. We were just too little. So the Shanleys represented more of the idea of fun to me than a reality for the most part- except for one day that stays clearly in my mind. I do have a memory of one day we spent at their house and it was everything I hoped it would be. Families having fun together, good food, and out back was a boat in its own slip that I actually got to go for a ride in! I could not imagine having a boat out my back door at that age, and so the mythical quality of this family only grew in my mind. When we were ready to leave that night, some of my siblings got to sleep over, and as we drove away I wanted ever so badly to stay and be part of the story.
I wrote about a week or so ago about cleaning out our friend Bobs uncles condo. It has been such an eye opening experience for me. The initial shock of being told we could have any of this really nice expensive stuff, soon gave way to the realization that most of it didn't really suit us. That morphed into the second realization that maybe other people really did need some of it and we could help by being good stewards of this particular lot of goods. So far we have found homes for lots and lots of misplaced items making me feel a bit like Santa with a sled full of misfit toys, in search of their rightful owners.
The third realization came when I seemed to recognize so many items from the past. Try to make your mind wander back about 20 or 30 years and walk through either your own house or an Aunts house and view the items within. Things that as children we pick up ( or perhaps weren't allowed to since they were precious) and stroke or hold to try to grasp the meaning they hold within. So many of the hundreds of items that have passed through my hands these last days are incredibly familiar to me. They may not be my Moms or my aunts or my Uncles but they might as well be. Each item laced with memories that seem to have survived their fate in perfect condition merely to unlock an old picture from my head or jostle loose an image that had also been packed away too tightly in my mind and heart. It makes no difference at all who the items belong to, as I run my fingers over them they evoke no less powerful an image as I had on the day I last saw them so many years ago.
And the whisper that has come forth from within those recesses and danced before my mind has me realizing that all those things do have meaning. Being married at 20 shortly after my Dad died and moving 5 times in the following 10 years can at times make you feel that you have missed a lot 'back home'. Going for a visit and discovering so much had changed can make one feel that many things have been lost never to be returned. Many days I have wanted to go back to my youth and revisit it to learn something more about myself that perhaps I had somehow missed or maybe even misplaced. These last few weeks have made me realize none of those things are ever really lost to us at all. They may not be physically present any longer but so long as we hold the lessons within ourselves, they remain a part of us alive and well.
Bob invited us to help him empty out an Uncles apartment a few weeks ago, but the gifts are not simply those of furniture and household wrappings. The better ones are nestled in the memories that they conjure up of drinking cold sodas out of quilted glasses by a boat slip while I waited my turn for a ride on a near perfect day. My Dad who has been dead for 20 + years now held me in his lap that day, to keep me safe on the rough waters of the Long Island sound. We didn't speak, the boat lulling us over the waves as the spray licked at our faces. Lifting the same quilted glasses the Shanleys had from the box in Bob's uncles house evoked just as powerful a memory as if I was in boat again with my father riding on the waves. Suddenly he was there and the salt air sprayed in my face once more.
And now the glasses are in my cupboard. Fred and I don't usually allow glasses in our house as we have found it an exercise in futility with ten children. But these glasses, these Shanley glasses, will stay for now as a reminder, mostly to me, of that summer that seemed to be lost- but was suddenly found along with all those other beautiful memories that are being unpacked and treasured and I might add- are in remarkably good condition. So many of the 'expensive items' in the condo have been unable to hold my attention for more than a moment-but the other things like the Christmas ornaments and Shanley glasses are a world of their own for me. They are the real treasures, I am glad that I have not mistaken the gift for the wrapping.