If there was one thing I would rush into a burning building for–beyond loved ones, pets, and the paperwork locked in the fireproof box– this would be it.
My Gram gave this kitty to me when I was twelve years old. One day, just clear out of the blue, she took me over the china cupboard in the hall and told me I could have my pick of the two. They were a matched set that she had inherited from her own grandmother years and years before. I deliberated over the porcelain pair; the other it seemed was destined to live with my cousin, but I was given first choice. One of the cats was in perfect condition, but this one was missing an ear. I couldn’t help myself, this was the one I felt I should take.
I have kept it close for several decades now. It has moved from dorm room to dorm room. Apartment to attic to apartment. House to house to here. It’s not usually on display, but often tucked into a cupboard where it often pulses a quiet heartbeat. My Gram has been gone for far too long now. Sometimes I wake up and wonder how it’s possible. At the Library this week a woman spoke of missing someone so dearly; there as so much longing in her voice that I instantly I thought she must also be missing my grandmother.
Someone who is very dear to me was celebrating her birthday recently, reveling in her life and the goodness and joy around her. (Just the feelings one would hope to have as part of a birthday celebration.) She asked me how old my gram was when we were hanging out, when I had all of those sleepovers in flannel nightgowns, special request breakfasts and evenings devoted to sitting out on the porch while the neighbors stopped to chat. And I answered unsurely. She was older, I think, mostly because she was becoming a grandparent and still having her own children way, way before I was born. I sometimes imagine what it would be like if she were still here and the conversations we would have. Would she see how much I have become like her? Baking and finding ways to care for others, seeing value in gently used items rather than always rushing out to buy something new. Stumbling on old handkerchiefs, teacups and fountain pens that feel as if they already belong to me. One of my favorite movie lines comes from a Mamet film, “State and Main”. Philip Seymour Hoffman is getting his eyeglasses fixed by Rebecca Pidgeon. When she has finished he says, “Good as new. Her reply: “Better than new, now it has a story.”
I bet we all have those little things in our homes that a stranger’s eye might pass over, but for us are imbued with history and connection. Tiny little trinkets that hold our hearts. Imagine a gallery filled with all of these precious things, worn and torn but still standing strong–waiting for the day that they will be passed on. I try to remember that what breaks makes us stronger, that those cracks add character. They are a badge of honor, a sign that says: I was here, I struggled and I’ve come out the other side. Our true inheritance are the stories those that happen to us and those stories we are given.