Monday, September 28, 2009

When an heirloom is not a tomato

My mom sold some of the family silver the other day. Plus some china, crystal and a couple of wicker pieces. It's part of her systematic thinning out of 'stuff', a process she can engage in because Dad, the one who sticks to the stuff like glue, is no longer able to have an opinion on things.

But just because it's part of a plan doesn't mean this is easy. She said that if the liquor cabinet hadn't been cleared out the week before she probably would have indulged in a medicinal tot.

I've been encouraging this clear-out but it wasn't easy for me either. Suddenly it seemed like bits of china and silver I either hadn't ever laid eyes on or looked at for years were the most precious things to behold. That gave me pause, because I've trained myself to limit the amount of sentimentality I indulge in. But I just had to put aside some pieces of china that belonged to my mom's Gremmy, the woman whose grandmotherly moniker I've taken but never got to meet.

When Goddy and I married, we specified no china or crystal, knowing that we'd soon be making an overseas move. I now bless the two friends of my mother's who ignored the directive and gave us a crystal bell and candy dish. "Every family needs some crystal," they said to my mother. "No matter where they live." Those pieces, and the fine bone china teacups my mother-in-law eventually gave me, survived numerous moves and who knows, maybe they'll be what my great-grandchildren pounce on.

It's got me thinking about what constitutes an heirloom. These things, pieces of stuff, keep the circle of family intact. Each time they are passed to another generation, a layer of love is added. It makes the cookies on the old plate sweeter, the tea in the fancy-lady cups more soothing, the grand dinners served on platters with faded patterns more satisfying.

I wonder what things will become the reminders of my life when I'm long gone. Will it be the crystal and china, or the funky jeweled duck that sits on my desk? Or the sculpture of Black Beauty that's always had pride of place on a mantle or sideboard? Will my pen collection survive the years?

And what about Ramsay? Are there more road trips in his future, perhaps until his colors fade and his mane is nearly gone?

Yes, some stuff is necessary. It's the choosing that's the hard part.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Slower Road

I learned a thing or two this summer on the Epic Journey with Evan. So Goddy and I were willing to dip our toes into the road trip pond when an opportunity recently arose.

A couple of weeks ago we were visiting Logan and Alyssa and Rowan. The sun shone for two whole days, something I've never before experienced in that neck of the woods. (I'm sure it does happen, just not when I'm in the neighborhood.)

When it came time to head home, the thought of trekking down I-5 was dreary, no matter what the weather was doing. Logan suggested taking the back roads down behind Mt. St. Helens. "It'll add about an hour to your time, but is so worth it," were his words. I remembered them as we eventually pulled into Portland, three hours later than anticipated.

But that doesn't matter, because we'd gotten into road-trip mode. We experienced all the meaningful moments, such as driving past the only viewpoint for 30 miles, deciding that none of the eateries in one place looked any good, then realizing the next food wasn't for 60 slow miles.

There were lots of trees and we sure got to see what was around the next bend of the road. We stopped to stretch our legs and as we strolled up an old logging road I remembered a movie I'd seen where a psycho killer roamed the woods looking for unsuspecting wanderers. This is the curse of an overactive imagination.

We breathed the air, enjoyed the slow pace and when we finally had to get back on I-5 for the last few miles into Portland, felt like we'd just been in a sweet dream. The jerk back into reality was jarring.

A good nights sleep got us all set for the next leg, and once again we took the slow road, through Silverton and Silver Falls Park. How did we get so lucky with the weather?

We learned that Silver Falls is not a particularly dog-friendly place but we eventually found a trail we all could enjoy. Plus, it whetted our appetite for a return trip to go look at the waterfalls.

So who knows, perhaps another Epic Journey is in our future?