Things Are Not Memories


Mom and Dad in the kitchen

When my father died last year, the house at the beach was passed on to me and my brothers. At first, we planned to sell the house. But the more I thought of that house and all the happy memories I had there, the more I wanted to keep the house.

Fortunately, my oldest brother who lives in Savannah wanted to keep the house as well. So we did, and this past weekend, I met with my brother and sister-in-law to talk about the house. What we needed to fix, needed to replace, that sort of thing.

Now, left up to me, because as I may have mentioned before I’m a kind of laissez-faire person (which sounds ever so much better than lazy), everything looked just fine and dandy to me.  Mom and Dad’s furniture, Mom and Dad’s colors, Mom and Dad’s style. But it became apparent that my sister-in-law wanted to make a lot of changes. New furniture, new colors, new style.

I think she was a little nervous, too, trying to be sensitive–or maybe respectful–of my feelings. But here’s the thing: I understood her need to make the house a home for her and her family, so that she didn’t feel like she was living in some sort of shrine to my parents. And of course, she wanted me to be happy with the changes as well; mostly, she didn’t want to tread on my memories.

It’s a fact, I miss my mom and dad. But no amount of paint, or new appliances, or beachy style would make me forget my parents. They’ll always be with me in that house because they’re always in my heart.

My hairdresser–isn’t it weird how we tell our hairdressers everything?–said my attitude was unusual, that most people would have difficulty letting go. Maybe that’s so, but I was raised by a woman who was constantly throwing out or giving away my stuff. Sometimes, while I was still using it.

So maybe I learned a long time ago that things are not memories, or that letting go–whether it’s people I love, or stuff I love, or even words I love in a manuscript–helps me move on to joy rather than sadness.

What about you? Do you agree with my hairdresser? Or are you more like me? (Um….I did keep a few things, like my dad’s desk, and my mom’s secretary; I’m not a barbarian. And a few books and some pictures. Little things. A note on the fridge in my mom’s handwriting…

Okay. Well. I kept a lot of writing-related stuff. I think that’s perfectly okay, don’t you?)


19 thoughts on “Things Are Not Memories

  1. I was raised by my Mom and my Grandmother. They had no problem letting go of “things” and moving forward with whatever circumstances fell on us. I struggled with that for a long time and finally realized my memories were always with me. You brought back lots of memories for me, Cathy. Thank you 🙂

    • Oh, I’m glad, Charlotte. My mom’s dad died when she was a little girl so she, too, was raised by her mom and aunt. I guess she also learned that lesson at a young age, that it’s better to move on than dwell on sadness. ♥

    • Absolutely, Pat! I think about that with my writing stuff and wonder what my kids would do with all my notebooks, or my blog, or books…They’d probably feel a little guilty, but they’d think about how I made them get rid of all THEIR stuff and bam! They’d toss everything! 🙂

  2. Things never mattered to my mom and she parted with just about everything. Love was most important to her and her grandchildren, and everyone knew it. Things can be replaced. Memories cannot.

  3. Cathy–You’re a writer. You’re going to keep those memories alive, even if all of your parents’ “things” are given away.

    I think it’s great you have their home to go to on vacations (or long weekends?), and whatever you wanted to keep is okay.

    (And what a sweet photo. From her profile, it looks like you take after your mom… especially around the eyes?)

  4. Yep, I agree–things are not memories. I do remember moving six months after my husband died and crying because it felt like I was leaving him behind. He’d never go to the new place with us and that hurt. But it’s not like we needed to stay in that house to remember him. And I tossed all of his stuff unless it was something we wanted to use. He’d moved on. He wasn’t using that stuff anymore and neither were we.

    Good post, and, yes I agree that we have to let go of our precious words sometimes, too.

    • Yeah, I can change the color of paint, hang different pictures, put down different floors. But it’ll always be “Dave’s office,” Sally. And Lord help me if I mess up his desk! 🙂

  5. All I can say is Road Trip! The Louisiana Lyons and The Criders are long over due for a gathering in the Tybee Home Place….The memories, the laughter and the love always in the heart! When mom downsized we thanked all her little treasures for the happiness they brought and sent it on it’s new way to bring someone else pleasure…made getting rid of things a little easier……..I think I still have Christmas cards Aunt Marie and Uncle Fret sent us many moons ago!!!

  6. Oh, Cath. This made me smile and tear up at the same time. I had to laugh when you said your mom threw stuff away, sometimes while you were still using it! 🙂 I love it. That’s exactly how I am. It’s so hard, though. Just today, Hope and Julia cleaned out their closets and took two huge garbage bags out to the trash. I had to hold myself back from stopping them at the door to rifle through those bags. But you’re so right. The love and laughs we share are the things that will be cherished in our memories, not the stuff we use from day to day. Thinking of you with love, and thankful you have such wonderful memories of your wonderful parents to keep.

    • Come on, Deb, you know you snuck out there and went through those bags! 🙂

      I had my parents for a long time, lots of wonderful memories for sure. (Except for maybe throwing out my favorite pair of overalls. I spent DAYS looking for those jeans until Mom finally admitted she’d tossed them!)

  7. Hey sweet girl!! Loved reading your letter and it really brought back lots of memories!! Memories are something no one can take away, steel from you or be lost in a fire! All the other stuff is just that “stuff”! Keep whatever stuff you want but hold on to those memories!!
    Call me when you want some company in Tybee, I know I’m old, but I love quiet time at the beach! My Mom passed away in February 1997 and my Dad died 20 years before she did and to this day I miss talking to them both!!! Love and miss you!!!

  8. Cathy it has been a while since I got on my computer to see this about the Tybee house. I am so glad you all are keeping it to have special visits to Tybee. I’m afraid I would want everything to be the same—maybe updated but not really replaced. Even today I can picture the living/dining room with all those wooden art work placed on the window sill. I have some of the same pieces and I did the same thing in my own house. Always think of Uncle Fret and Aunt Marie when I look at them. As Debbie said we hope to get to Tybee this summer.

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