Our home is a constant work in progress. Even though the remodel/addition was almost four years ago, we are yet to be fully settled. I guess having a kid can do that. We have also had a few family changes – the passing of my father-in-law just two months before Emerson’s birth, the recent move of my husband’s grandparents from their family home to assisted living… these have caused us to acquire a lot of new things. Things that mean a lot, but don’t really have homes. It’s hard deciding what gets real estate in the house, what gets stored for now, and what leaves forever. Hard from a style point… and also an emotional point.
It seems every weekend we’re rearranging wall hangings, moving pieces to the attic, posting items on Freecycle. It often seems like a real-life game of Tetris. Last week I brought home the artwork from my office as we moved locations and I no longer have a wall to hang them. I realized the frame holding my map of DC is the perfect size for the signed My Morning Jacket poster we got at Forecastle. Not only that, but the clouds in the print are the same color as our bedroom walls. My husband saw that as fate and admitted after many many months that he doesn’t like the paintings of his dad and himself on the bedroom wall, it creeps him out. So we took them down in hopes to find a new home in the house, and for the short term, put up the poster. We decided to frame the rest of the concert posters we have collecting dust in a cardboard tube and make a gallery wall in the bedroom.
Saturday night we were hanging out in our bedroom after Emerson went to sleep, listening to music, drinking wine, and looking at the poster on the wall. It’s amazing how a change of wall art can transform the entire energy of a room. Karl kept examining the poster, and said he wanted to cut it up and put the toy together. I said we couldn’t, it’s a signed poster, and a memento from a great weekend. He said we have a second one (one for each ticket…) so we wouldn’t be SOL.
But then I saw life in 50 years. Emerson has just had us move to assisted living, or just got home from one of our funerals. She pours a glass of wine and walks around the empty house she grew up in, overwhelmed by all the stuff. She comes up to our bedroom, it still smells like us, and her mind is full of memories of being a kid, waking us up, family snuggle on Sunday mornings, playing with my makeup at my dressing table. She walks around the room, reminiscing. She stops at the framed poster, and thinks, I always wanted to know what that toy would look like. Fuck it, I’m going to do it. She grabs a pair of scissors and a glue stick and sitting on our bed or on the floor, puts together the toy. She then has a pang of regret, realizing she destroyed something that meant a lot to her parents. As she goes to clean up her mess and put the frame back together, she sees there are other sheets in the frame… a second poster! She laughs and cries at the same time, and puts the frame together and carries it downstairs to put with the other items that will transfer to her home.
We decided to slip a note into the frame, letting the next owner (be it Emerson or another) know it’s okay to cut up the poster. That we wanted to do the same, but held off so the next owner could enjoy it. I hope it does end up being Emerson, and I hope it does give her a bit of joy and a laugh at a time when she may really need it.
It’s hard to see loved ones get older, be hospitalized, placed in nursing homes, die. Karl and I have had quite a lot of that in the past two decades. Through all this loss, we have seen how family truly shapes you – it helps define you, understand why you are the way you are. And one can’t realize how truly wonderful life is without some pain for contrast. We’ve found laughter in the tears with the crazy things we have found while cleaning out our loved ones' belongings, it feels good to possibly provide the same for Emerson just at the time she may need it. Now I understand why our families held on to so much stuff – you never know which little thing will be sentimental, emotional, or necessary for your next of kin.