Stuff…

Before I begin , I know there are a few people reading my crazy thoughts and I really would love your thoughts in exchange .  Some of what I write must strike a chord even if it is one of ‘ what a lot of guff, she’s off her trolley, the way I see it is ….’  Today’s offering will I hope provoke some responses!

As Christmas approaches my life long struggle with stuff rears its head again.  I’m not sure where to start on this one. I am not a recluse living in a hermitage on top of a hill with nothing but a hair shirt and berries for survival. I am a fully paid up member of the first world , cosy home with all mod cons, two bathrooms – one each !  A long way from using a bush behind my hut! We have a car, two lap tops, a motorbike and I think I have about twenty pairs of shoes .  It doesn’t stop me lusting at the offerings in Rumbo and other beautiful shoe shops, even the shoes in our local market are made in Spain and are gorgeous .  It doesn’t stop me smiling when I look at our new dining room table and 70s style Perspex chairs , OK it’s from a big Danish chain store but the design is stolen from style icons and I love them. All in all, I love stuff but not too much.  And so as I begin to think about presents for the little people in my life ( and little things for the big people – we are all agreed that we don’t need anything other than kind thoughts) I remember all the stuff that has come and gone from mine and my family’s lives and wonder about its significance.

As Walt and I began to downsize in preparation for our move from a four bed detached via a two bed flat in Scotland to a two bed apartment ( with outside space!) in a foreign country we had to be brutal , this was happening shortly after my brothers and I had to sell and clear my parents’ 50 years plus of stuff and Walt and I sorted out and cleared his parents’ home.  Lots of stuff, lots of memories , but no one wanted it!  All those loved items , saved for , polished, cherished were no longer seen that way.  Perhaps 21st century life is geared up to disposable stuff, planned obsolescence?  It was really sad and tough but we couldn’t begin to take it all with us .  I carefully picked out bits of my mum’s favourite China, her mason cash mixing bowl ( when I ever I use it I know her hands have touched it too) some pretty cutlery , made in Sheffield , her few pieces of jewellery and her wedding veil, lots of photos , my Dad’s high school and apprenticeship certificates and his  RAF tie! I have Walt’s mum’s wally dugs and some very pretty earrings .  I tried to persuade other family members to do the same but as none of us have enormous homes it just wasn’t practical .  All this then begging the question – does stuff really mean anything ?  Recently we have watched the news of the dreadful wild fires in California and  families whose homes have literally been wiped out.  When interviewed , for the most part , many of these poor people were only concerned for the lives of loved ones and neighbours, grateful to be alive and anxious for those still missing.  One man even said on describing how he had lost all his stuff  ‘ it’s actually quite liberating’.

Which brings me back to Christmas and the not so subtle encouragement to buy stuff, any stuff , as much stuff as you can or can not afford.  I love giving presents to the people I love.  Over the years I truly have put genuine thought in to Christmas presents .  Last year the grown ups in the family received only cards which indicated that their gift was actually being given to some one else via UNICEF!  This year we have agreed on a secret Santa, with a very sensible budget as some of us are pensioners, have student loans or are between jobs.   It doesn’t stop me thinking about stuff for the wee ones however and then I am reminded that they have so much stuff already that storage space is a constant headache.  This reminds me of the silver Porsche Christmas!  When my parents’ business was doing well they took part in and attended packaging exhibitions around Europe.  One was held in London just before Christmas and as my Dad drove everywhere he could, they had their car with them . It was 1989/90 – no congestion charges- this allowed them to plunder Hamleys and bring home a silver pedal car … a Porsche for my then youngest son!  The Porsche was played with over the years by him , his siblings and friends and being from Hamleys, it stayed in good nick!  What happened to the Porsche?   It stayed with us until the accumulation of stuff with four kids going in to their teens meant we had no room, jammed in a shed, its pedals rusted and by the new millennium no one wanted it.  I have attachment issues to stuff relating to my parents and was so sad when it finally met its maker in the local recycling yard!  My son in law’s expression when ever I took ‘ precious child hood stuff ‘ belonging to my daughter round to their new home and Walt’s incredulity that I had lugged these memory boxes through several move , says it all!  Therefore as Christmas approaches what is the point in adding to their stuff?    Like my lovely parents and the Porsche ,  I am only human and a Granny.  Children in Spain are the centre of family life and our shopping malls and city centres still have wonderful independent toy shops and children’s clothes shops…. The temptation is phenomenal.  Then I put my sensible hat on and think that some money in their savings account  for uni or a rainy day!  Like the grown ups in the family, they really don’t need anything and will they cherish stuff much beyond the age tags on their new clothes or toys?  There is one notable exception to this argument , ‘ a baby , a buggy , a Santa Claus’.  This was the request from my daughter Hannah when asked age two what she would like for Christmas. ( Her big sister asked for a washing line that same year- did she know that 32 years later she would have three under fours and a Chinese laundry full of washing?)  I digress, Hannah’s baby and buggy were delivered by Santa ( the buggy was from Poundstretchers- I had a strict budget!) . The baby however was a fisher price doll called Julie who became Hannah’s comfort and 32 years later still graces her marital bedroom!  Julie is not just ‘stuff’ and maybe that’s the point, presents will be bought and wrapped as usual across the globe this Christmas . Some will meet their maker just days or weeks later but some, like Julie will become too precious to part with.  It still doesn’t help me answer my own question about whether to add to the piles of stuff acquired by big and little ones on Christmas Day.  It doesn’t stop me writing lists or thinking about what I can get for folks.  It doesn’t get me any closer to understanding why I cling to Mum’s old baking bowl while others would simply chuck it in the bin.  Help! What is the deal with stuff? 

some well travelled stuff!

Mum’ Mason Cash bowl!

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