‘Ducky, you’re a little weird’Published 7:30am Sunday, February 5, 2012
Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster
Each day as I walk to my car, I stare at the long, curved piece of wood with the rusted metal ends that hangs on the garage wall, and I’m reminded that my dad thinks I’m weird. I touch it the way athletes touch the words of their mantra as they leave the locker room and I say, “Hi, Grandpa.”
In 2006, my dad and I visited my grandparents’ old farm in Brimley, Mich. Nothing was left of the original house or outbuildings except for the dilapidated granary. The new owner told me to stay away from it because the foundation was sinking and the roof was caving in. To me, that was like an engraved invitation.
I knew there had to be something left in there of my grandpa Kloster’s. I never met him, and I wanted something of his, something tangible that I could touch and know that he had touched it, too.
Once inside I realized I was not alone. The sun seeped through the cracks in the walls shining a spotlight on mice skittering along the rotted beams. Rodents and I usually try to stay on opposite sides of town, so I grabbed the first thing I saw and ran.
My dad was standing outside leaning against his cane as I flew by him. “What are you doing with that hame?” he called into my wake.
So that’s what I had. “I need this hame! What’s a hame?” I yelled over my shoulder.
A hame, I found out later, is a rounded wooden piece of a harness that fits over the neck of a work animal. Exactly what I needed in the suburbs.
I told my dad I was going to put the hame with my CCC brick. The day before, we had visited the long-abandoned Civilian Conservation Camp in Raco, Mich., where my dad served before World War II. I’d found a loose paving brick leading to the barracks. I held up the hame and brick and proudly announced that they made a beautiful pair. That’s when my dad said, “Ducky, you’re a little weird.”
Typically we think of mementos as locks of hair, pressed flowers and love letters, but couldn’t the ordinary remnants of a life have just as much sentimental value?
To answer my question I asked my nieces and a few friends what keepsakes they cherished and why.
“I have my dad’s Raybans from the ’80s,” my niece, Caitlin, told me. “I have about a million notes in the shape of feet that my friend used to hide all around my house.” I’m still wondering what a note shaped like a foot looks like. “And,” she went on, “a College of Education Alumni Association newsletter from 1974 with Grandpa on the cover.”
My niece, Annie, has “a hammer that my dad gave me when I was 2. It’s small and has a wooden handle that he wrote my name on in big block letters. But the weirdest thing is an empty box from an Old Spice toiletry kit. I remember when all the men got one of those kits for Christmas. It was one of the best Christmases! Whenever I see that empty box I think about that time.”
Obviously this weirdness runs in the family. I moved on to my friends.
My friend, Jenny, treasures all the programs from every show she ever performed in, and Robin cherishes the dollhouse her father made for her over 30 years ago. Christina will never part with her grandma’s last tube of lipstick, which still has the contour that only her grandma’s lipsticks had. Ann Marie keeps the last bit of lotion and perfume in each bottle so she can remember the smell of that time in her life.
There you have it. If I’m weird, the world is weird with me. My dad always told me never to marry yourself to objects. He said people are more important than possessions.
I agree with him, but there are some objects I do love because the people or the times they represent aren’t there anymore. Sometimes we need a talisman to protect our memories. Maybe it’s a worn tube of lipstick, a dollhouse, the last drop of perfume, or even a rusty old hame hanging on the garage wall.
Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and her blog is Radishes at Dawn at alexandrakloster.com.