I love things vintage, so you can imagine that I don’t always have an easy time getting rid of…um…stuff.
But, I am trying genuinely hard to downsize and have lately been embracing the experience as an opportunity to curate my…um…stuff down to the things that I truly, truly love, have space for, and use very frequently.
To quote Yoda (which seems apropos recently):
Donated, I did, the rhinoceros doo-dahs I used to collect.
Still, today as I was going through drawers in my craft room/office, I came upon a cache of old greeting cards we’ve received. I save (too) many cards because it feels like a way to make them worth at least some of the paper and glitter and money that people have invested in them. I’m writing this with glitter in my eyebrows and socks so trust me when I say there’s plenty of glitter and think about it: cards are a whole lot of environmental and fiscal energy that get read in under 10 seconds. Then later, you toss them away.
Except, if you’re me of course, who collects cards like a chipmunk collecting nuts for winter.
Insert “she’s a hoarder in denial” theme song here.
Anyway, I save them for a while (okay, fine, I found one today dated 2004) and then spend time with a big stack, while watching TV or listening to music. I cut out the bits I want to re-use with my pinking shears and fashion them into gift tags which I will (and do) use later.
(See, you thought I was just making this up, didn’t you?)
Some of you are snickering, I’m sure, but it really does make me feel as if I’ve extended the life of cards for at least one more round.
(Just pretend it’s wartime and we’re rationing stuff.)
Long ago (like, until last year), I used to save cards for sentimental reasons but I have eschewed sentimentality (or tried to) lately. I have been sensible and rational and only kept a sampling of cards from my years of teenage angst and youthful adventures (in the plastic Harrod’s bag I got while working on Oxford Street in London, the year I was 20.) Okay, fine, and I also have the Harvey’s hamburger wrapper my friend, Ugly Orange Sweater Guy, wrote me a letter on while I was languishing without Harvey’s in England, the year I was 16/17, but I’m sure you can agree that a letter written on a Harvey’s wrapper is an artifact well worth hoarding—I mean, preserving.
Anyhoo, while cutting and chopping, pinking and punching today, I found some treasures.
Two cards from my old friend, Little Julie, who became an angel to her husband and three, young sons, a few years ago, after cancer.
I could hear her voice as I read her words.
What a gift, I thought, and tried to blink away the tears.
Then, a card from my Grandma Helen, gone now for nearly a decade (I can’t believe it).
Signed the same way, her cards always were:
All my love back to you, Grandma.
It’s lovely how someone’s handwriting can immediately bring them to you. I wonder, in this age of so little handwriting anymore, will we have lost the chance to re-connect for those brief moments with people we have known and loved?
Then, cards from Practical Man’s German Mutti (now, sadly, living with dementia) and his Canadian mother, (cancer took her, too.)
I know that the um…stuff…is not the same as the person. I’ve watched the shows and chanted those mantras to myself. I’ve even photographed said stuff and then let it go.
But, I recently received the book my dad and aunt wrote about my great-grandparents. In it, there is a sweet and flirty letter my great-grandma wrote to my great-grandfather, while they were dating. There are tender and lonely letters my great-grandfather wrote to his wife and children while he was in the sanitorium for tuberculosis for two years. There is even the original hotel bill from my great-grandparents honeymoon night in Chicago in 1923:
Meaningless stuff, you might say.
I obviously come from a long line of hoarders, you might say.
And, you might be right.
But, to those angels who touched my shoulders today and other days: thank you for visiting.
We miss you.
As a teenager, I prepared for spending 3 months on student exchange in Germany the way most teenagers would: I didn’t bother with practical lingo like
“Can you please tell me the time?”
“Which way to the main train station?”
I was a teenager and since practical lingo seemed to assume that I would always be late or lost, I scoffed.
Instead, I learned the most important words first.
That is, the yummy words.
Case in point: I easily memorized words like
- Laugenbroetchen (pretzel bun)
- Schwarzwaelderkirschtorte (Black Forest cake) and
- Schlagsahne (whipped cream)
But, I struggled when it came to words like
- ??? (pickled herring)
- ??? (liverwurst) and
- ??? (blood sausage).
I maintain that I am vocabulary-impaired through no fault of my own. My great-great grandfather immigrated to Canada from Germany and opened a bakery. My paternal grandfather spent his childhood twirling pretzels in the family bakery in Kitchener, Ontario–a skill he could still demonstrate decades later with our Play Doh.
Yep, gluten and sugar both flow in my veins (and pool somewhere around my chin, mid-section and bottom).
Luckily, there are more remnants from our familial bakery past than the scapegoats of rubenesque, middle-aged descendants. We have a few artifacts and a fair number of pictures, most of which have been compiled into a book by my father and aunt.
There’s a recipe for approximately 200 pounds of cake, in case I want to invite 1000 of my dearest over for a ‘Let Them Eat Cake’ extravaganza.
Wait, I think I’m on to something there…
Cake festivals aside, I have been meaning to install a sort of Bardon Bakery homage in our kitchen for some time now. It was provoked by the gift of tea towels with one of the Bardon Bakery advertising images, which a friend had screen-printed for my sister, parents and I.
I started to gather some of my favourite of the photos and artifacts from the bakery book to display:
Then of course, I went to IKEA (as you do).
I got a Swedish, red frame to put the German -Canadian bakery photo in.
I’m sure my great-great grandfather would approve.
So, a lovely display of Bardon Bakery nostalgia is finally on the walls near the table. If only I had some
- Laugenbroetchen (pretzel buns)
- Schwarzwaelderkirschtorte (Black Forest cake) or
- Schlagsahne (whipped cream)
I could have a lovely Kaffeeklatsch (afternoon coffee chat) as is the German tradition, right here in my own kitchen.
Of course, since I don’t like coffee, my Kaffeeklatsch-es have always been less Kaffee and more Kuchen…so really, a Kuchenklatsch (afternoon cake chat) or Torteklatsch (afternoon GOOD CAKE–the kind with whipped cream, mousse-and-other-delectable-goodies-inside–chat).
But, since I don’t have any Kuchen or (drat) Torte, we may have to dip into the extremely large care package of German goodies that we received recently from a friend in Lahr:
Choco Crossies (chocolate crispies), Ritter Sport Voll-Nuss (chocolate hazelnut Ritter bars), Lebkuchen (chocolate ginger cookie doo-dahs), Gummibaerchen (gummy bears)…
For some reason, I know ALL these words in German.
Still have no idea how to say
??? (Boiled Beef Tongue).
Today’s mission is to encourage you to spend a sunny afternoon having a picnic in a cemetery.
Oh, now, why are you making that face?Didn’t your mother ever tell you that your face might stick like that? And besides, don’t knock a cemetery picnic ’til you’ve tried it.
Until that lovely day arrives, please, please trust me (have I ever led you astray?): cemetery picnics are great!
We’ve always loved cemeteries in my family, what with our nostalgia thing (on my dad’s side) and our spring cemetery Decoration Day thing (on my mom’s side) and making up outrageous stories about people who lived long ago thing (oh wait, that was me).
Also, I have young parents and they had young parents and they, in turn, also had young parents (that would be my great grandparents now, are you keeping track?) so there’s a lot of living history.
Not to mention birthday cards.
I was lucky, lucky, lucky because my great, great Grandma Jo (that would be my Grandpa Lou’s grandma) lived until she was almost 104.
I was 11 when she died. That’s 11 rare years with my great, great grandmother: the woman who chased my grandpa Lou around when he was a baby.
In the 1920s. Practically yesterday, to Grandma Jo.
She was born in 1876.
That’s a seriously long time ago before world wars and evil, control-top pantyhose and we got to hear all about it, from someone who was there.
How cool is that?
Grandma Jo told stories about her parents and grandparents (that would be my great, great, great grandparents and my great, great, great, great grandparents. Are you keeping track?) and she had pictures because she was the somewhat privileged daughter of a miller/judge.
Who needs ancestry.com when we had Grandma Jo?
Did you know that people in the olden days weren’t all grumpy? Cameras took ages to take the picture and it’s actually really difficult to say CHEEEEEEESE for that long (and besides, their mothers had probably told them that their faces might stick like that).
Also, they had to wear corsets. So, some of those frowns might have been due to a little grumpiness after all, as it strikes me that a corset might be even worse than control-top pantyhose.
Grandma Jo also had a time where she was a frequent fainter, just like I am.
My doctors always say, “you’ll probably live until you’re 100, you’ll just faint a lot”. Little do they know, if my great-great grandma was any indication, I could still be around in 2073.
Wacky to think about. I hope I still have teeth.
Or, at least the ability to eat tomatoes. I lo-o-o-o-ve tomatoes. And goofy hats. I’m definitely wearing goofy hats in 2073.
Anyway, old stuff (and people) don’t freak us out the way they do some families. Hence, the cemeteries.
There is a lovely one, in nearby Prince Edward County, Ontario. It’s right next to equally stunning Chadsey’s Cairn winery (which is currently for sale, so if you’re really inspired by this post, you might want to wander up there for a look-see.)
I picture my friend Pippi spending eternity next to the grapes. Me, I’m more of a water view kind of a gal. I can’t afford it in this life but I’m hoping that by 2073, the afterlife will be cheaper (especially if I agree to share my graveyard with jaunty picnickers.)
The vineyard graveyard was just begging for a picnic but we didn’t have a corkscrew or a lovely bit of fancy cheese, the last time we were there.
I think homemade cinnamon-sugar doughnuts from the stand down the road should count as a picnic, don’t you?
My first almost-grown-up cemetery picnic occurred when I was 15. It was under some big, beautiful trees at Trinity Church, on Wolfe Island, with my friend Gretchen (not really her name). Gretchen lives in Germany where everyone seems to plant their loved-ones’ individual plots completely, which I think is really nice (not to mention tidy) but, not conducive to a picnic.
Wolfe Island is not technically one of The Thousand Islands but it should be, because it’s right next door. It’s just a short ferry-ride from downtown and a picnic in a cemetery is always made even better when a ferry ride is involved.
Gretchen and I sang “In a Country Churchyard” by Chris de Burgh, slightly off-key but enthusiastically, and ate our sandwiches on the grass next to the tombstones.
It was peaceful.
You’re making that face again.
I hope it doesn’t stick like that.