We are searching for meaning in the meaningless.

13 Jun


Originally uploaded by thordora

I’m not a big stuff person. Sure, I like things. But if they go missing, or break, I don’t miss them much. A small “huh” usually suffices, unless we’re talking about my Rainbow Brite doll that I lost years ago, or the hockey stick my brother broke when I was 7 or so.

Stuff just is. I’m not a collector, or a hoarder. My slob tendencies aside, I don’t have a lot of things. I have books. I have music. I have few clothes, little in the bathroom and I can count on one hand the things I’d be saving in case of fire.

Both my father and I believe that death imprints upon you a sense of urgency and need, an awareness of the bigger world looming around you. Things are meaningless to him as well. We like nice things, expensive well made pieces of furniture, sculpture, a perfect light fixture, emotion cast in bronze. We want to respond to that which we own. After losing my mother, little things trickled into the background. You might still want that Wii or those shoes, but you just don’t care enough to save up for it or fight some bitchy lady in an aisle for it.

Those concerns are swept away, replaced by more morbid thoughts, conversations about dying with a 5 year old.

Today, spurred on by this lovely bout of hypomania, I cleaned the counter where everything goes to die, and the shelving around it. On the top shelves live my mother’s tea cups.

All through my childhood I coveted these. I was only allowed to touch them every few months when she took them down for cleaning along with her copper pots. As a child they were delicious to look at, colors so vibrant, flowers so perfect. Each English Bone China, likely worth very little. But when I was allowed to hold one briefly, they may as well been eggs from the golden goose. They were treasure. They were special to my mother and I was allowed to hold them.

For years I didn’t have them, until I moved into this house and my father arrived one year with them.

“You always loved them, and it’s time for you to have them. Otherwise they’ll get broken”

I nearly burst into tears at the sight of them, at the feel of the cold china in my hands, the smoothness of the handles, the delicate folds and bends. My mother’s industrious hands were all over them, and briefly, she was with me.

Tonight this happened again, that bubble flashback in time to simpler things, standing next to the reassurance of my mother, her hands methodically yet cautiously cleaning her tea cups. I found my own hands caressing the china, her arms and thoughts moving through mine.

Vivian asked to hold them and I reminded her they were special and she wasn’t quite old enough. She asked me why they were special, why we had to be so careful.

I told her “Because sometimes a thing can bring a memory back so real that it’s like you’re there. And sometimes sweets, I just want to be with my mommy so bad I need something special to take me there. These are all I have left of my mother, and I need to be careful.”

She asked me if she’s be gone if the teacups broke. I told her no, she’d still be in my heart, but that then the specialness of holding something her hands had once held would be gone.

With that wisdom only the small seem to carry, she nodded and walked away.

They are only teacups. But they are also gateways to another place, another time entirely, where the sun shines heavy on a winter afternoon. Things are meaningless, without the stories built in.

6 Responses to “We are searching for meaning in the meaningless.”

  1. Bon June 13, 2008 at 9:35 pm #

    but when things can release those stories…and when enough time has passed that the stories and the vision and presence of the hands once on those things is enough…then they can be precious.

    you explained it beautifully to Vivian.

  2. March June 14, 2008 at 7:06 am #

    oh my gosh, you just made my heart become mulch.
    you actually brought tears to my eyes, as my mother too had similar china and similar attitude towards it.

    You explained it so beautifully to Vivian, honesty is the best explanation…

    and you’re my kind of person when it comes to material things around you… though I think Im way more OCD than you are 🙂

    each time I read your post, you take me places, and I love that about you.

  3. bine June 14, 2008 at 8:32 am #

    i think you got it to her in the most wonderful way i can imagine.
    one day the cups may be hers, and although she never met your mom, she will remember what magic they worked for you.
    i have inherited my moms cherrywood antiques that she in turn had inherited from her mother, whom she lost at about the same age i lost her. they speak to me of my mom, but also of my grandmother who seemed to live on in them for her. it’s a wonderful magic feeling.

  4. sweetsalty kate June 14, 2008 at 9:04 am #

    ahh, yes… yes. What a lovely way to describe this to vivian.

  5. Mad Hatter June 16, 2008 at 8:47 pm #

    I believe firmly in the metonymy of memory in simple objects. I have countless booby traps in the house so that I stumble upon her time and again: a slip of paper in her handwriting, 25-yr-old liniment, china tea cups, cheapo Christmas decorations.

    My husband keeps the ancient wire stripper that his dad had in his pocket the night he died on the window sill by his desk.

    Yes, there is magic in these things.

  6. thordora June 16, 2008 at 10:16 pm #

    I also have her rosary, and I can rarely bring myself to touch it for all it means. The tea cups though…those are her.

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