Mac Clayton invests personal stuff with memory, and it’s never more stubborn than when its connected to your children.

Remember setting up house? Pots and pans. One pan, anyway. A dish or two. Coffee pot. A decent knife. Laundry basket, or maybe not, maybe just a corner of the closet. You were busy and free. You weren’t worried about all that stuff.

But it piled up, and then you moved in with someone else and his or her stuff and pretty soon you needed more room not just for the stuff but for the baby that was on the way, a prospect both exhilarating and terrifying.

That baby did it. Before her, stuff was just stuff. Now it became the cradle, an ornate antique with lace linens, in imagination if not reality. The flowered wallpaper. The changing table. The rocking chair. The toy box. The soccer goal. The study desk and lamp. The stereo. The couch with popcorn between the cushions. The television with fingerprints on the screen. And finally, the duffel bag for college.

You keep her bedroom like a silent migratory marsh pond. When her visits become less frequent, you begin saving things you think she would like for her new apartment. A set of plates she always loved. The pots you cooked all her meals in. The lamp she read by. Your attic becomes a shrine to both her past and her future.

But she never comes for her old things. She sets up her own house and finds her own mate and has her own kids. You begin to save her childhood toys for your grandchildren. Your attic is getting crowded.

And now here you are with all that stuff, which is not stuff to you but the memoir of your life. Long after you know it won’t be needed, not even by you, you keep it, knowing without admitting it that one day you will be gone and those bits of your life will remain, knitted together like the gray twigs of an old robin’s nest, still sturdy and serviceable, but abandoned.

With a Perspective, I’m Mac Clayton.

Mac Clayton is an author. He lives on the Peninsula.

The Memory of Stuff 13 February,2018Amanda Font

  • GLou

    After my wife took our daughter to daycare this morning, I was cleaning her bottles while your perspective aired.
    Very powerful, very moving and very important to take a step back while going through the morning routine.
    Thank you for your contribution. I intent to read this to her the day she goes to college.

  • Jeannie

    How true – the things in our home tell important stories of our lives. Our daughters are grown with their own families, but their bedrooms are still, in part, shrines. Yes, one has morphed into a computer office, and the other is a guest bedroom – but some posters and artwork remain on the walls, bookshelves contain their childhood collections, and their closets are stuffed with costumes, toys, school projects and memorabilia of all sorts. Thank you for holding a mirror to the heartfelt attachment of all these things.

  • Joanna

    Thank you for that timely perspective. So beautifully and poetically stated. My sisters and I are just selling my mom’s home – after 60 years of her life in the home my dad built, you can only imagine the stuff/treasures. Plus my twin boys are seniors in high school and about to launch. You wonderful perspective on collecting, saving and realizing why we are attached to stuff brightened my morning.

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