Julie Seedorf: Hang on to the memories, not possessions

Published 7:30 pm Sunday, June 10, 2018

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf


A small porcelain doll tucked away for years in my mother’s special cedar chest, transferred to the top drawer of one of my dressers after my mother died, and now tucked away somewhere in my daughter’s house brings perspective to me as to the importance of why we hold on to things which connect our lives from one generation to another. It is why I am now giving my daughter permission to let it go if she so chooses.

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I am in the process of simplifying my life of many material knickknacks and baubles. Yet there are some items where the hold is too dear that I can’t simply let them go to a stranger.  I contemplate and examine my feelings about these treasures because if I listen to the gurus of clutter control, these objects are holding me back from living my authentic life.

Why did I keep this beautiful porcelain doll all these years after my mother died? Why did she keep this doll tucked away in a drawer where no one could see it for most of her adult life?

When my daughter was helping me sort through the boxes in my basement she told me, “If you aren’t going to take it out where you can see it and remember, and are only going to visit this stuff when you clean your basement, only to put it back in the box — why are you keeping it?”

I thought she had a good point and we purged. There were some things she wanted but I suspect she only wanted them to get them out of my basement because she knew I was having a hard time letting go. If I asked her for them now she probably would have to admit she no longer had them.

Yet, the doll stayed in my dresser drawer and I would pull it out from time to time to look at it. Recently I gave it to my daughter to someday give to my granddaughters when they were old enough to cherish and understand that it was their great-grandmother’s doll.

I have started meditating each day and it seems to bring perspective to my life. I realized the significance of this doll wasn’t so much the doll but what it represented to my mom and to me.

The story my mother told me when she would pull out the doll and show it to me was that a woman gave it to her when she was young as payment for helping with some chores at this woman’s home. It was my mother’s first doll and you could tell it had been played with. Times were hard when my mom was growing up. Her parents were Polish immigrants trying to raise a family in America. In thinking about it I realize why I had many dolls that were given to me by my mother. She loved dolls and had only one or two so she made sure her love of dolls was passed down to me. Her doll represented not only her first earnings, but a kindness did for her when times were sparse.

I now know my mom kept this doll forever hidden when she got older because she wanted it to last. She wanted to preserve her memories representing a time in her childhood that had meaning. Taking it out and putting it in view might have meant it would get damaged or deteriorate.

I kept that doll not because I was in love with the doll but because of what it represented; the story my mom told me, a story in her life. A story of something she was proud of; a story of a time when someone touched her heart. It was the story not the doll that made me keep it.

I was able to let it go to my daughter because I wanted the doll passed down through the generations, a legacy. But during my meditation I realized that without the story the doll had no meaning. It might touch my daughter’s heart because she knew her grandmother but she was never told the story by her grandmother. My granddaughters won’t cherish the story because they did not know their great-grandmother and therefore I doubt whether the doll will have meaning.

I need to look at the other things tucked away in my home and keep this perspective on them as well. What is the real reason I am keeping the item? Is it the item itself or the story?

I am going to take a picture of the doll, write the story and put it in a book where I will add all the other stories that I want to pass down through the family. After all it is the stories which piece together our lives and help us know where we came from and how we got to where we are. It is the stories of our ancestor’s struggles, heartaches and joys which have meaning. The entity which triggers those stories are the clutter, the stories are the precious gems worth keeping.

“Keep all special thoughts and memories for lifetimes to come. Share these keepsakes with others to inspire hope and build from the past, which can bridge to the future.” — Mattie Stepanek

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.