Monday, March 19, 2012
Treasured Possessions/Score One For The Humans!
Monday again, again. Lots of Mondays. The weekend was usual, how was yours? I'm starting to sound like a broken record. Schaller's on Friday - Christ and me, Judy and Bernie - their first time and oh, my - they were the toast of the place - they loved it and everyone loved them. Christ and I made good music together. We're comfortable. The whole romance thing has passed. Funny how when that window closes, the feelings move on as if to say, "OK, I can do friends. Friends=good." These days, zero romantic prospects and that's OK. Besides, I think I may have mated for life even though he and I are not together. There are plenty of people who, when they find their puzzle piece, can't conceive of being with anyone else, even if their mate dies. I'm not a freak. And never say never. Lightening could strike twice, but it might not and I need to be OK with that. It was a miracle to have had him for a time.
Saturday I cooked for friends, Irish of course given that it was St. Patrick's Day (wince). They feasted on traditional fare: corned beef and cabbage, red potatoes, Irish soda bread and for dessert a fabulous apple maple bread pudding with freshly whipped cream. Sunday a quiet day of cleaning. I did battle with kitchen pantry moths. I hate the little fuckers who continue to plague me after more than a year despite a concerted effort by Orkin to exterminate them. This time I've got all dried food in containers, I ordered pheromone traps online, and I detailed the kitchen with tiny utensils just like it was a vintage car.
So the book, The Most Human Human, it's getting ponderous. I'm not sure I can recommend it with the same enthusiasm I had last week. I struggled through a whole chapter on chess - human vs. computer including play by play moves which were supposed to amaze and shock me. Maybe I'm not smart enough to fully appreciate this book. Maybe you would have slapped your forehead and said "Dummkopf, how could he have played 47.h4!!! Anyhow, I'm still plodding through it but it's feeling like work. When I'm done with this read, I'll have to reward myself with some romantic fiction!
Today I was thinking of possessions because of an incident yesterday with Madeleine. She had a full head of steam to get the back lawn in spring shape - laying down peat moss, then grass seed and patchmaster for the barest of spots. Her Tom Sawyer ways meant she enlisted a few friends to help her - hey, whatever it takes! She asked if they could borrow my Bose docking station to listen to tunes while they worked. Later I looked at the yard and saw the Bose sitting in the middle of the lawn! I freaked - buying the Bose had been a splurge, not cheap, several hundred dollars and here it was sitting in dirt! An honest mistake, she said. Hmmmmm..it went against my better judgement to let her take it outside. I was right to be worried about what is a treasured possession.
Treasured possessions. How treasured should they be? When do possessions stop being life enhancing and become, instead, life enervating? Most recently Carla warned me that the steel sculpture on my front lawn could be stolen for scrap. I shrugged and told her, "I try not to get too attached," to which she responded, "I am very attached to my possessions." Her possession are exquisite, rare, expensive but yet very personal. I understand the attachment. And yet, I aspire to a different kind of relationship with my possessions; one that keeps them in their non-human place.
I love the story Liza tells about a European mother with a brood of artsy kids. Their house was artistic chaos, full of love and humor. One day a new dining table was delivered - massive to seat the family of ten, a strong, simple table of oak - quality. The story is that Erika shocked her family on day one of table ownership by flinging a cleaver into the center of the perfect surface, the table's first injury. "Now," she said, "we can enjoy this table." And that is what it's about, right? Being able to enjoy our possessions without them owning us, without becoming servants to them?
My own similar story centers around a set of beautiful crystal goblets passed down to me from my father. They were a special gift, given in gratitude to him by an antique collector neighbor. The woman was older and to her delight was being wooed by a younger, handsome man. My father recognized him as a con artist and warned the woman who, at first, refused to believe him. In time, she connected the dots and was able to extricate herself from the relationship before falling prey to his schemes. I revisited that story every time I drank from those glasses, proud of my father for having warned her - most people would not have gotten involved. One day, my friend Victor brought a hyperactive guest to my house, who bounced around and insisted on doing the dishes after dinner. We grimaced as he clanged around the kitchen and when we heard the sound of breaking glass we weren't surprised - he was a klutz extraordinaire. The casualty of his carelessness was the last remaining crystal goblet.
I should have been angry and bereft but curiously I wasn't - the incident occurred at a time when I was feeling very existential and mortal. When the glass broke, I smiled and said, "Score one for the humans!" I had come to hate the idea that our possessions outlive us so, the thought that one of my possessions bit the dust before I did, made me smile. Is it weird to be jealous of a desk or a painting? Maybe when I die, I'll arrange for a large pit to be dug in my backyard and all my possessions burned. As you can see, I have an ambivalent relationship with my stuff.
The challenge today is thinking about your stuff. Do you own it or does it own you? Have you created an environment in your home where humans rule or do you fuss and fret and put down coasters, take your shoes off to protect the floors, threaten the cleaning lady with her life if she isn't more careful with your figurines, use your silver and best china just once a year and then nervously? If that's the case, maybe you should do the equivalent of impaling the knife in the table. One of my favorite bowls is an old Indian pudding bowl my mother gave me - not sure if it was passed down to her. It's got two very large chips on it. I use it proudly. It's old, it deserves to be chipped. If it gets another chip it will still be serviceable. People probably wonder why I serve them from such a disfigured bowl but they're too polite to ask and I've long since forgotten it's an eyesore - I just like it. It's a good bowl.