Posted by: chlost | April 6, 2010


Over the last day or so, I have been remembering a few of the family stories that have been told over and over in our family.  these are the stories that when there is a new person in the family, they must be told the stories as part of the initiation into the family.  Oh, poor things!

I have three children.  So far, only one of the three is married.  His wife has been wonderfully patient with all of us, allowing us to go through the various stories as they come up in conversations.  The remaining two children’s spouses/significants will no doubt have to be put through the same procedure.

Why do these stories matter so much to us?  They are really not all that funny-well most of them, anyway-or interesting, or exciting.  But they are our shared history.  The stuff that makes us a family. 

Now that my dad and my sister have died, I have realized that our family memories are fading.  My brother is nearly 10 years younger than me.  He really doesn’t remember some of the most infamous stories.  Those are only within my sister’s and my memory.  It is just the three of us now, and my mom-as the parent, she didn’t know about some of the things we did as kids. 

Luckily, my dad was a storyteller.  He loved to tell these stories, and he did, many, many times.  He was a bit of an actor.  He would tell the stories the same way-exactly the same-each time. There would be pauses for effect, theatrical sighs, laughs and parenthetical explanations repeated at the same point in each telling.  After hearing this over and over again, we would become embarrassed and tired of his telling these at every opportunity.  But now, I am glad that he did-the stories are burned into my brain.  A bit like the Native American stories passed from generation to generation.  Not as profound, but important to us.

I have had one conversation with my husband over and over recently.  This conversation is centered around the amount of stuff (junk!) that we have in our home.  We have stuff from my dad, my grandmother, his parents, his grandparents, our children have left things here “until they are in a place that they can have them”, and of course, there is our stuff.  We have a double attached garage.  We own two vehicles.  Neither of those vehicles is parked in said garage. 

The memories and the stuff seem to be intertwined.  If we get rid of the stuff, do we get rid of the memories?  Or, one of our children could use great grandma’s dining room table sometime if that child does not have a dining room table.  Said child has no memory of said great grandma using said table, but it would be special, wouldn’t it? Especially if the child were told the story about my dad’s first meeting with his prospective in-laws (as a very tall man, he hit the underside of the table as he pulled in his chair and spilled everything on the table).

The memories and the stuff go together.  I’m working on trying to let go of one side of that equation and still keep the other.  Why do I feel like a little kid who is getting a teddy bear pulled out of my arms as I hold on to it tighter and tighter?



  1. Memories and stuff – Yes, the source of a lot of conflict and angst; what to keep, what has meaning, what to toss. Containers of our kids stuffed animals (they don’t want them) projects the kids made in school. Old stuff that that our grandparents had, furniture and letters and photos… lots of photos. My wife has found a way to begin to catalog and store/preserve the photos, thankfully. Still, we look at her Dad’s house, packed to the rafters with stuff that the children of the Depression NEVER throw out… it seems hopeless. [sigh]

  2. The ubiquitous stuff! I’m going through my place and looking for stuff to get rid of before my hoped for move takes place. It’s a challenge.

    Your memories will always be with you — at least until Alzheimer’s sets in. Sigh.

    • Actually, your post on going through your stuff was one of the things that made me think of all of my stuff! Hope you are making progress, because I certainly am not!!!

  3. A friend counseled me as I suffered this same problem in my efforts to downsize. If a things biggest (or only) value is the memories that it invokes, then take very good photos of it. Put all these photos into a computer file, CD or scrapbook. Then whenever you want you can recall the good feelings. At the same time you will feel lighter not having all the physical things holding you down.

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