Memories · The Last Half Century

The Marbles I Couldn’t Let Go

Memories are powerful. When they attach themselves to the things in our life, it makes it very difficult to get rid of those things. At this point in my life, I am trying to downsize my collection of stuff from more than a half century of living. I am finding that as I pare down my collection, many of the remaining items have a strong emotional bond to some memory in my life. One example is an old living room chair from the 1920s and a set of marbles that once belonged to my Great Aunt Laura.

When I was a kid sometimes I would go to the church next to our school for various activities. My Great Aunt Laura lived about a block from the church and afterwards I would often go there to wait to be picked up by one of my older siblings. As I sat in an old chair in her living room waiting for my ride, she would usually give me cookies and tea and make small talk with me. There was something soothing about sitting in her living room surrounded by vibrant ferns and sunlit windows munching on cookies as she asked me about school or the family. I felt very much at home with her in that old chair.

Then there were the times when my family would visit her after church on Sunday. Often we sat in her kitchen as she served us a light lunch. Because there was not enough room for all of us to sit around her small table, I usually sat on a stool near the table by a shelf built into the wall. I actually enjoyed sitting there because she had a dish of marbles sitting on that shelf. I loved looking at the marbles while I ate a cookie. The whole scene left me with a good feeling inside.

Years later, after I graduated from college and was working my first job out of town, my mom called to inform me my Great Aunt Laura was in the hospital. A day later she called to tell me she had died. It was a sad moment for me. After my Great Aunt’s funeral at the church, we walked the block to her house where my mom announced each of my siblings could have a memento from her house.

The memories flowed back into my mind as I relived the time I spent with my Great Aunt in her house. As I walked into the kitchen, I was immediately drawn to the bowl of marbles sitting on a shelf by the stool where I sat when I was a kid. I was amazed that everything was still the same. “I would like that bowl of marbles,” I told my mom. “That’s it?” My mom replied. “That’s it,” I reassured her. I left with that bowl of marbles and something tangible connected to that cozy memory in my Great Aunt’s kitchen.

Years later, when my siblings were cleaning out my mom’s house after she moved into assisted living, there were items no one in my family wanted that were left in the house. These unwanted pieces of furniture were destined for the local resale store. As I toured the house one last time before it was put up for sale, I spotted an old chair that once belonged to my Great Aunt Laura — the chair I used to sit in as a kid in her living room. “No body wants this chair?” I asked my sister. “You can take that old thing if you want it,” she replied. “Okay,” I said as I stared at the chair and recalled all the times I sat in it as a kid waiting to be picked up after school.

Today, years later, I still have that chair and the bowl of marbles. As I continue to part with so much of my old stuff in an attempt to downsize, I wonder why I have such a strong emotional bond to an old chair and a bowl of marbles? Perhaps it is because when I touch the chair or hold one of the marbles in my hand I can instantly feel myself sitting in my Great Aunt’s living room and still taste the soft cookie in my mouth. It is a feeling of comfort preserved by an inanimate object that holds little value to anyone else.

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