Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dealing with Our Stuff

The American People's Encyclopedia occupied a prominent position in my parent's home for fifty years. Purchased volume by volume from Sears, they represented more than my parent's prayer for our future. They meant my parents had enough money to provide for us what they never had. The books gave them a certain gravitas, proclaimed them adult members of the middle class. They meant my sister and I were to have a college education, that we would never have to face years of unemployment as my father had, and though we were only six and eleven when they arrived, we knew these serious looking books meant business.

Sixty-three years later, those volumes bought with savings and great hopes, those volumes which had a place of honor in my own living room, were dumped on the floor in my home. Have I ever looked at them in all the time they lived with me? In this day of Wikipedia and instant online sources for all you want to know, these volumes speak of another time. Saying good-bye isn't so easy. Even though my parents were very practical people, I feel I need to apologize to them, thank them, honor their hopes so fully realized.

No matter how important our stuff is to us, how freighted with history and personal weight, our kids don't want much of it. By the time my parents died, my sister and I had overstuffed homes. Now our kids do too. My son has told me he doesn't want any of it: not my grandmother's wedding plates and glasses we used and they used on special occasions when we were all growing up, not the sterling silver in the same box I played with as a child, and knew one day would be mine.

So what do we do with the stuff we carry, the stuff we box and store, the stuff we think is so important or simply can't figure out what to do with? These encyclopedias will be upcycled to art pieces. What would my father think? Better than going to the dump I say. No one wants mid century encyclopedias any more. I'll save one remnant: "Anatomy of the Human Body, 12 transparent plates showing the internal organs in natural color." They always fascinated me, and though you can see through page to page from boney structures of the chest to intestines to the scrotum, though you can see front sides and back sides, I still can't see and couldn't then see the very thing I looked for: what little girls are made of and why aren't my reproductive organs even mentioned?

Baruch ata adonai...I am so thankful to my parents for wanting so much for me and doing so much to make that happen. Thank you for placing me in their arms. I will create an art piece in their honor so that this book and their intentions for me live on. I like thinking about that. Amen


  1. I remember sitting behind my parents sofa, reading the Encyclopedia America they had bought. It had it's own special little bookcase, and some of the information was outdated by the time I was able to read it.

    I like your idea of upcycling your encyclopedias into art. That seems a good way to honor your parents and your children.

    (I came from Nanahood's bloghop.)

  2. If you are as senstive to smell as I am, I encourage you to keep one full book, so you can open it and get a good wiff whenever needed:)

  3. This is such a wonderful post. I remember my mom getting these too. I'd totally forgotten about them. It's wonderful that you saw the meaning behind yours as well. :)

    I'm visiting/following today from the Happy Friday Link up.

  4. Good Morning Barbara. I'm visiting today from NanaHood. I very much enjoyed your post today. I live in my grandmother's 1920 historical home with all of her stuff, my stuff and my youngest son's stuff. You really spoke to my heart today.

    We too had the sets of Encyclopedia Britannica - the adult set and the children's set.
    Of course I tucked into the adult set. :) They are still at my parents house in the same bookshelf on the same hallway. It's comforting to see them there when I go home to visit. I would love to see the art piece you make out of yours.

    God Bless.

    ~ Cassandra from Renaissance Women