Sunday, December 5, 2010

Having My Cake and Eating It Too

I am definitely speaking metaphorically here -- remember "The Devil" in Archives. What I deal with today is the question of saving or using, keeping or letting go. I am a child of a "waste not, want not" era. My people "recycled" before there were "recycling facilities", reinventing "perfectly good" trash or leftovers. Further back, my paternal grandmother, Eula, (see the "My Vegan Story" page for a snapshot of her later life) who grew up on an 18,000 acre homestead cattle ranch in northeastern Washington state, suddenly found herself in charge of the ranch at the tender age of 13 when her grandmother died. Eula could herd cattle and defended herself from the cowboys with a buggy whip. There are so many amazing stories about her  early life . . . not enough space here, but you can imagine a scrap was never wasted by that lady. My mother's family was equally frugal. As teens she and her sister shared three blouses and two skirts between them. Again, so many stories . .

So you can see from where I've come. The world has changed so drastically for the generations that have followed my grandparents' era. We have more, we spend more, we waste more, or, alternatively, we hoard. That's what happens when "waste not want not" collides with "just buy it on credit". I find myself with one foot in the hardscrabble past and the other in a minimalist future, fighting the urge to hoard.

I have regretted losing or even using some beloved objects with sentimental value, so my decision process gets gummed up sometimes while weeding out. The mental "weight" of all the stuff is paralyzing, but I wouldn't want to get rid of or use up something that turns out to be precious. Some of my best friends with pristine homes are ruthless about not letting objects linger. I can see that their mental loads are lighter and their energy levels higher. But that's not me, nor will it ever be. The best I can do is hone my decision making about what should be used, recycled, kept, donated or tossed.

The lovely photo above is not a cake. It is a beautiful little ball of soap my parents brought me, along with many other wonderful gifts, when they visited. The soap is from the Medici Palace, where they were recently privileged to stay on a trip to Tuscany. The soap is made with olive oil and smells so nice, but the wrapping is as precious to me as the soap. Look at the little sealing medallion, the twine, the grape leaf! Even as I write this I can see how silly I am being. It's just soap. But it's also my sweet Mom's delight when choosing it during a happy time in her life. Then the image of this treasure, dust-covered, lost in some vanity drawer someday pops into my mind. The decision is made.  I will display it by my kitchen window for a couple of weeks, and then I will unwrap and use it.

Here is another "precious treasure" I've managed to choose wisely about:

This Wedgewood baby bowl is part of a set given to us by my parents when Hans was born in 1994. I hope the plate and cup that came with it are carefully wrapped somewhere in a box of baby things. I don't remember. But I am happy this little bowl has lived in a pile of mismatched everyday bowls perched atop a pile of mismatched everyday plates on my cabinet shelf. It is the one I always choose for myself, and it works because it is a little smaller than the others, and my family members care a lot more about portion size than the quality of the china. But, aside from letting it reside in a pile of chipped and unmatched brethren, I carefully tend this little bowl. When I spied my sweet Dad getting ready to pop it in the microwave with some leftovers, I gently took it from him and quickly poured his food into a bigger, more chipped, more everyday bowl, explaining that I love this bowl he had given me and that the other bowl was better for the microwave.  He smiled and understood. He comes from the same people I do!

In using this treasure, I may lose it someday. Life happens. But I won't regret having used it. It always makes me happy. And anyway, it is already immortalized in this blog post, along with my Tuscan soap!

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