The fluff of stuff. And the power of a photograph.

A few months ago I was in my mom-in-law’s house with her.  My eye caught sight of a vase I’d not seen before and I said, “Wow, that is gorgeous. I love it!”.  To which she immediately and without hesitation emphatically said, “Take it. It’s yours. I do not need all this stuff.”  And she waved her hands around the room.

So, I took it home. 

It looks really lovely on the glass shelf where I display it.  Of course I rarely see it, and no one else does either really.

The hubby and I are on the very cusp of retirement, a new journey.  It’s exciting to dream and plan for what we are going to do.  One of the first things we talk about is cleaning out closets, getting rid of all the excess.  In case we move to a smaller house.  And so our kids have less stuff to deal with later on.

So, hmmm.  Anyone want a lovely vase?

Last weekend we drove over to Yoder, Kansas to an Amish furniture store.  I tell you the truth, when we walked in the door I was swept away in awe, and a little breathless.  All of the handmade tables and chairs, handmade quilts, handmade bedroom sets were just stunning to me. I was drooling and my credit card was burning a hole in my wallet.  The quality of everything in that store was just amazing.  And the price tags reflected the quality of workmanship.

I looked at all the incredibly beautiful dining room tables and had visions of large family gatherings with everyone sitting around the same table.  Eating together, sharing life together, loving each other around a meal.

But we were there for one specific small item, spent around 30 bucks, and walked out the door to our car to go back home.

As we drove away we talked about how beautiful everything was in that store and how nice it would be to buy a few furnishings.  But of course, in the next breath we were talking downsizing, shedding stuff, simplifying.  And the truth of the matter is, any of the amazing pieces of furniture, even with the handmade value and high price, is still just…..stuff.  That would eventually be one more thing for our kids to deal with.  Estate sale, etc.

We recently helped some friends prepare their elderly father’s home for an estate sale.  It’s a lovely home where they spent 65+ years of married life together.  And every inch of that home was filled with treasured items they had collected over all those years. Many many many items.  I kid you not.

Our friends were closing out a lifetime of stuff.  Their mom is in heaven, Dad is living in assisted living nearby.  After we finished moving all the stuff, the daughter said, “You have to see this, come look at this!”  I expected her to lead me to an elaborate, valuable, stunning treasure.  Her excitement was tangible over this one item.

And she led me to a huge poster board photograph of her parents on their wedding day.   I’ve known her parents for such a long time,  and the picture brought tears to my eyes.  Their youth, their love, their excitement for the years ahead is all over the two faces in that picture.  Just a simple piece of poster board, a picture that tells the story of 65+ years of life together and the love that carried them through.

Neither my parents nor my husband’s parents had big weddings.  Just exchanged vows in small private ceremonies.  In fact, my folks flipped a coin to decide whether to get married on that particular day or not.   The dime rolled under a nearby piano.  And apparently once retrieved, the coin flip indicated “marriage”.  Romantic, huh?  Mom wore a brown skirt and blazer, Dad probably had on overalls,  and they found a judge to marry them.  And she kept the dime forever in her box of keepsakes.

Wedding photos?  Nothing for my folks.   There is a precious snapshot of my in-laws the day they got married.  Outdoors on Christmas Eve in front of her folks’ house.  They both were bundled in warm coats and my mother-in-law was wearing a kitchen towel for a scarf because that’s all they could find at the time to keep her ears warm.  She doesn’t like that picture, but I think it’s absolutely precious.  Gorgeous happy faces showing obvious excitement for their life together.  Just beautiful.

No wedding pictures, but I want you to see the four of them.  Here they are, so very young. My folks on the left, DeWayne’s on the right.  And a clock.  Time, precious time.  Fleeting time.


Harsh reality tells us that retirement is the final chapter.  And I’ve lived long enough, lost enough loved ones to know that all the stuff in the world doesn’t take the place of breathing the same air in the same room with those you love.  Being able to touch them, hug them, hear them speak.

Treasures?  I have a few little items from my folks, things Daddy made, his hat, a few things from Mom’s kitchen.  Oh my goodness, none of it makes up for the pain of losing them, or the desire to be with them.  The only real treasure to me is the love that remains, the love that was passed on from these four parents, to their children, to their grandchildren…. Love remains.
Stuff is fluff.  Love is the real treasure.

The hubby and I  will undoubtedly toss a few things out over the next several months.  We might even have a garage sale ***honestly, no way that’s happening***.  But we’re going to hang on to the love that has carried us through almost 45 years of life together.  And I’m praying that God blesses us with many more years.

Our children’s inheritance?  When we’re gone….our love remains.  In them.  To pass on to their children.  What a treasure! Priceless if you ask me.

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