It’s done. A little later this week I’ll complete the sale of the last of my mother’s Christmas china and, as Trudy says in Steel Magnolias, there’s a story in there somewhere.
My mother loved that china and used it with pride. She delighted in the beauty of her table as friends, neighbors, bridge clubs and family gathered in her home throughout the holiday season. The first year after her death I proudly and sadly posted a picture on Facebook of my father sitting at my dining room table set with my mother’s Christmas china.
I knew I’d keep it always and treasure it just as deeply as she had. Until I didn't.
My life is different now. My father is also gone. I go over the river and through the woods to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving these days. The younger generation of our family has taken over the duties of hosting Christmas gatherings. My Decembers are far too busy for me even to begin to think of hosting dinners.
The china was for the life mother lived, and was a remnant of life I no longer lived. Letting it go wasn’t doing anything but simply acknowledging that my life was different now. And sometimes that’s anything but simple.
We hold onto stuff for all kinds of reasons. We hold onto gifts that were given with love from the people whom we love, the people who longer gift us with their presence on this earth. We hold onto tangible reminders of who they were and what they did. I hold onto my father’s painting easel, although it is big and bulky and takes up far too much room. We hold onto things because they remind us of who we once were and the lives we once lived. Or we hold on from inertia and habit, because that chair has always been in the corner of that room.
Letting go of the gift doesn’t mean erasing the joy and delight we felt in the receiving of it. Even without that Christmas china stacked in the cupboard I can still remember the warmth and the fun of my entire family gathered around the table, my mother beaming because she loved setting a beautiful table with that china but mostly because all of her children and their children were home again and that was the most beautiful thing. Our hearts are wide and can hold many such memories, no farther away than a thought.
On the other hand, in letting go we acknowledge the chapters that are forever closed. I’ll never gather that way around that table again. My life now is good, and the changes are the most natural ones of all. They are as it should be. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t grieve the loss of what was.
We let go. We hold on. It’s part of the dance of our lives.