This I Believe
The first water-logged object I picked up was my parent’s wedding album. If I hadn’t caught a glimpse of my father’s young face with his horn rim glasses and crew cut, I wouldn’t have known these pages of black and white streaks were at one time an important piece of our family history. They might as well have been charcoal drawings the way the gulf waters washed the images away. I flung the leather carcass of useless pages onto what would become the junk pile. Things do matter! Perhaps an ordained Baptist minister like me shouldn’t say such things. The spirit, the intangible, is the penultimate of creation, right? Well . . . Nevertheless . . . I believe in things.
I am indeed thankful my parent’s survived Hurricane Katrina but those that continue to claim that unlike people ‘things can be replaced’ are not familiar with the stress that comes with frantically trying to hang on to memories less they quietly slip from your brain never to be retrieved. Old photos, wedding china, Nanna’s silver set, all carry memories with them.
Atop one pile of debris is a Johnny Mathis album that I remember my parent’s dancing to on Sunday afternoons now scratched beyond recognition. Strewn clear over into the neighbor’s yard, the stained-glass candle holder that as a child I purchased with some hard earned dollars for my mom at the Pascagoula Beach Park Craft Show, now shattered and useless. I actually thought about keeping it because though the gift was broken the memory it held was still in tact. Then comes hope in the form of a neighbor who pulls from behind his back a 12 X 18 framed picture (circa 1962) of my mother in her wedding dress. The wall on which it hung is literally gone. The picture floated for an entire block and sustained little damage. Hope in the form of a thing? You betcha.
I worry about my parents who are in their mid 60’s and still reside in a 30ft trailer on the same property where their house once stood. I worry more about that day when they move into their new bigger, better, and brighter home chocked full with new furniture and art—all pretty and gleaming but almost void of memories. How long will they feel like strangers in that new place before their ‘stuff’ once again attracts some memories? When my family visits for the holidays, will this new place feel like home or the Holiday Inn?
I’m thinking the small number of pictures, and the new Katrina-inspired side table tiled with generations of broken china, will be enough to give new energy to a new start for my parents. Hope will gain momentum and not all memories will be lost. Yea, I’m really into things, now. I believe in the necessity of my stuff. I’m not collecting anything or saving every Mason jar, but I am taking notice of my stuff and the stories they carry.
-Alan Wright, Chaplain, Baylor Medical Center at Irving
Home: Dallas, Texas
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