The Lure of Beautiful Things

It’s easy to see how it happens – the accumulation of stuff – it would sneak up on you gradually: a tea cup here, a angel figurine there, then suddenly you are standing in your own house, so overwhelmed by the shear magnitude of what you own that you really can’t even begin to tackle it.

We went up to Casper last weekend to pick up Andy’s inheritance: a 1968 ford mustang. His aunt is in her late 60s and can no longer see well enough to drive. The near perfect piece of classic americana has had an interesting history in his family.

It was his aunt’s first car. Then her dad bought it from her when she first moved to Wyoming. After his death, her mom drove it some, but it soon found itself sitting dormant in the garage.

None of us even realized it still existed until after her death in 2002 (7 months before our wedding), when we started going through her house.

I had only been to Ruth’s a handful of times in the 4 years we dated. The house was clean but you found yourself immediately overwhelmed upon entering the front room. There were 4 couches, arranged into a square, but spaced about 10 inches apart. It felt as if you had to step over their arms to get into the room to sit and this was just the front half of the main living room. There was a second “gathering space” in the back half…then a second living room towards the back….etc.

Every horizontal surface was filled with ceramics, doilies, whatever-the-heck-else people place around on display. We didn’t own a single china cabinet, so I had no concept that there were people who owned several. You didn’t want to breathe in that house let alone move an inch as you tried to look relaxed and engaged.

She was a wonderful woman. The kind of spitfire 80-some-year-old we all hope to be…except for the stuff that is.

Her husband died shortly after Andy turned 1. The stories of him leave a hole in my own life, as he was most certainly someone I was meant to love. I only see shadows of who he was through the kind-hearted and generous nature of my own father-in-law.

He adored his wife and cherished his children, so it is no wonder they found themselves trying to find ways to cope with his absence. I think Ruth couldn’t bear to get rid of anything he ever touched…..the problem was, she then found herself with decades of time on her hands and a penchant and pocketbook poised for accumulation.

“Mom loved beautiful things….” Gayle recalled as she stood next to me and watched me carefully wrap each piece of china.

This is my third trip to Casper in the last 18 months and maybe the 10th time in the last 2 hours that she has spoken of her mom. “I suppose I get that from her”.

The problem was that like her
mother, Gayle couldn’t let go of anything….and I do mean anything. I was living in the dorms when Ruth passed and Gayle asked if I would take a 2 lb bag of sugar, which was hard as a rock and might have been purchased 20 years ago, because she obviously couldn’t cope with the idea of throwing it out.

Andy’s step-mom at the time (long story there), spoke up for me “great idea Gayle, I’ll put it in the car”. She took me back up to school that evening and we stopped at the dumpster behind the mall to toss the sugar. “Believe me, this is the path of least resistance”.

…to be continued


3 thoughts on “The Lure of Beautiful Things

  1. Ok, so I know I don’t comment very often, but I live in Wyoming too! In Thermopolis actually, 2 hours away from Casper. CRAZY. Small world! Anyways, my hubby’s parents are JUST like Gayle. They keep EVERYTHING and have gone so far as to build a garage with an giant attic above to hoard their “pretties.” I dread the thought of having to go through it all when they die. It’s easy to fall into the trap though of buying lots of stuff because its on sale, looks fun, I need it, etc.

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