I come from a long line of hoarders.
It is in our DNA, our heritage, a family legacy of sorts.
Junk is passed down from one generation to another.
And boy howdy, there’s been some junk.
Granny, in particular, held onto everything she ever got.
Fabric scraps, old pieces of furniture, newspaper articles, empty jars and every single button that she could find.
All of it littered every spare square inch of space in Granny’s home.
It was a by product of the Depression, holding on to everything in case you one day needed it. Granny reasoned if she didn’t need it, someone else might.
“Why do you wash out these mayonnaise jars?” I asked her once. “Why don’t you just throw them away?”
“I can use ‘em,” was her reply.
She did, too. The empty jars held her buttons and other small items that otherwise would get lost in a drawer or on a shelf.
She never refused anything given to her, either. Someone offered her two huge boxes of fabric once, all end pieces from different bolts and she eagerly accepted it.
“None of that is the same or enough to do anything with,” I commented as I looked through it, hoping for a pretty pattern for some curtains.
“It will do just fine,” she said.
And it did, with Granny making some lovely patchwork quilts and cushions out of it.
She still had some of the fabric stashed back when she passed away.
“I don’t think your grandmother threw away anything,” Mama said the other day. “And I think your uncle is just as bad.”
She was probably right on both counts. Although, I will have to say, my uncle has started weeding out his stuff.
Little by little, he has been giving some things to Cole that he thinks his great-nephew will either want or that will be worth something one day.
His old guitars, I understand; they are cool and even if they may not work anymore, they will still be nice to have.
Old issues of US and People magazine, I am not so sure about.
“That one’s got Princess Diana on the front,” he said. “It may be worth something one day.”
I doubted it – one of the cats had chewed off all the corners – but didn’t say a word.
“He’s just like Mama in that regard,” Mama said. “He thinks all this junk is going to be valuable one day. It’s not. We need to throw probably half of it away. Maybe all of it.”
I agreed. A lot of it probably did need to be thrown away.
“You know when we moved here 14 years
ago, Granny didn’t throw the first thing away,” Mama continued. “She could have
got rid of a ton of junk then but nope; she was scared to part with anything.
It is all junk.”
Mama was probably fussing because she has been cleaning up around the same junk for over 40 years. It was a process she was increasingly frustrated with.
“Maybe not all of it is junk,” Mama conceded, feeling guilty. “I shouldn’t say that. We still have her old sewing machine. She made lots of things on that. And I think it still works.”
Granny didn’t sew her quilts on the machine; those were sewn by hand. But she used her machine for things like curtains, aprons, and hemming up a pair of pants.
“I bet the first piece of furniture she ever bought is still here somewhere,” Mama mused.
“It probably is,” I agreed.
Mama chuckled. “I bet it isn’t worth even what she paid for it then. Granny loathed antiques, as you know; yet, she would keep everything for 100 years thinking one day it would be worth something.”
That was Granny’s reason for hoarding everything – or so she claimed.
“Maybe it’s not that she thought it would be worth something one day, but maybe it meant a lot to her when she got it?” I questioned.
Granny was never extravagant with her money; she never had enough to be. She was quite frugal and somehow managed to stretch out her and Pop’s money to pay everything and then save a little. When the old gal did scrimp and save to get something, she was quite proud and took care of it.
Maybe that’s why she saved it. It had meant a lot to her to – small sacrifices, pinching pennies, and getting the most use out of everything so she could those little extras.
To her, it was something special, even if it was not that big of a deal to someone else. We had always joked Granny thought her stuff was worth something just because it was hers.
Maybe it was. Maybe it was worth the world to her and now, that made it valuable to me.