Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Treasure Hunt

We went to the Titanic exposition at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science this weekend. How incredible that after so many years at the bottom of the ocean, researchers and adventurers found a way to get inside and explore the artifacts of so many people’s lives. While many of the treasures on display are more about bits and pieces of the Titanic itself, there were poignant reminders that real people perished in that tragedy. It got us thinking about treasures and just how many of them we gather through a lifetime.

In fact, clutter has become big business. I read recently there is a $9 billion global home organization market, with the U.S. expected to reach $8 billion by 2009! The big question of course, is what is the difference between “treasures” and “clutter.” Like most things, it’s usually in the eye of the beholder. Why is it that we can pay money to go to a museum to see playing cards, wire-rimmed eyeglasses, and bone china tea cups retrieved from a sunken ship, and be impatient with our own parents or grandparents boxes full of the same things? As I reflect on the last years of life for parents, in-laws and tales of my friends facing similar situations, we all have some of the same reactions. The Baby Boomer son or daughter is eager to separate the wheat from the chaff, dump the junk and help mom or dad (usually mom) reduce the treasures to one or two boxes for easy handling.

So, last night I took a look at my room, at my closet and drawers, and wondered about some of the things I have been carting around for years. I tried to be the observer, the one who will poke through these things when I am not around, or can no longer do it. Why do I still have that Yoko Ono book of poetry (not all that good poetry besides)? Or that box of nubby colored pencils from the first art class I took when I finally overcame my scarring from sixth grade Catholic school teacher embarrassment of my stick figure drawings? I found again the box of my brother’s treasures that I carried away after his death, worried they would get thrown out some day? What will happen to them, I mused last night, when I’m not here to guard them?

We are fascinated by our own history, of course. The key, it seems, is how to become fascinated in someone else’s history, especially if we are a caregiver or someone now in a position to help another sort through it all. Surely, there is junk. There are countless findings from the Titanic that will never be shown because they are mere shards of glass or crushed metal beyond recognition. It’s the perfection of the tea cup that survived the disaster, the door of the safe that protected the jewels of the first class ladies from New York, the single pair of eyeglasses that stirs our curiosity and brings us to the museum.

Is there a way we can pull out some of the treasures, our own or those of our aging relative, or even our kids or grandkids, and create the story now before we are faced with deciding whether this thing is junk or treasure? There is an explosion of services emerging that feature videotaping, photographing, storytelling. We can hook you up with them if you like. Contact us for more information. You can also do this yourself. Ask mom to go through one box of treasures with you and listen to the story that lives still inside her when she picks up the cameo pin, the single rhinestone earring, the bottlecap from the RC soda can. Sometimes there truly are treasures there. When Pam did this with her mother a few years ago, she discovered her old collection of Beatle cards! She hasn’t gone on eBay yet. It might just be that one day her great-grandchildren will come upon those cards when they find her box of treasures.

Tell us about some of your treasures. If it’s written someplace, even in these comments, you can prove later just how important they were to you.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Thanks Aunt Kathryn, now you got me thinking about all of my moms stuff. To the readers, my mom passed away May 7,2007. And through the years she collected alot of stuff. Now when I go through her things, there is a memeory attached to everything. And it's really hard to decide what to do with it.