What’s going to happen to your stuff when you die? My biggest fear and secret thrill is that my stuff will end up at Goodwill.
Why Goodwill? Because people go there to find stuff and I hope that someone finds me.
My mom talks about this even now as she’s approaching 70. Her home is a museum, filled with some relics that only she and I care about. Between her boyfriend, my brothers and her sisters, I imagine I know the most about what’s in there. I know which china tea cups in the curio are her mother’s and which were found, just the two of us at Goodwill. I know which blankets were her dad’s and meant for us. I know which things are what.
I currently have no kids of my own. If I take on all her stuff and then I have my own stuff, who’s going to be left to care about and for it? It’s potentially inevitable that, depending on the circumstances, my stuff will end up in those flimsy cardboard boxes that fall apart just as you lift it from your car to drop off at GW. A birthday card from my grandma will flutter to the ground and someone will hastily pick it up, irritated that the box broke, and throw it back in the box. It will have separated from the perfectly-penned envelope and once found, the finder won’t know that the card was from Alberta W. in Kansas. They’ll only see a card signed, “Grammie”.
At this point, I can only hope that my stuff ends up at a thrift shop and not in a landfill. Perhaps I should circumvent disaster and include this missive in a will that I haven’t written yet. (Note to self and to all of you: Get a Will!)
In preparation, perhaps I should put little notes in my paperback books; something like a short bio and a photo maybe? Just something that gives a little more than, “This book belongs to Peppur Chambers” in the front inside flap.
Perhaps I should tape little messages to the backsides of my art like,”I bought this at a street fair in Chicago. I was 22 and it was the first and only piece of art I’ve purchased from an artist.”
But maybe that would take all the fun out of things.
For those of us who are finders, maybe the mystery is what draws us. Take the mystery out and we go cold, we turn away with noses high with disinterest and disdain.
I found this photo at the now-gone open bazaar that was on 6th (?) in New York. I’ve had him for nearly twenty years. He is framed and hangs on my wall. There’s nothing on the back of the photo. I know nothing about him, but he tells me everything.
Recently, a friend from the less-than-digital age and I were scrolling through photos on her phone and she expressed that if we don’t start printing photos again, all of this is going to be lost.
Would it be better?
Would it be better that all of these photos we’re taking are digital and will pass away with us as the last bar of a password-protected phone fades to black? Left to live in the moment they were created, rather than in one unknown in the future?
Perhaps that would be better.
Until that time, here’s a peek at a photo that has the potential to fall from my photo album once it reaches Goodwill:
This is Grandma Gordon with my two brothers and my cousin in her home in Indianapolis. Based on the digital print on the back, this was the 12th photo taken on 8/84. I took this picture with the new Kodak Disc camera I’d gotten for Christmas 1983 when I was 13. My brother Darnell on the right is wearing a track suit that he’d gotten for Christmas. It was a little big and I remember my parents saying he’d grow into it, which he did. I remember how new it smelled when he unwrapped it and how happy he was to wear it to basketball practice.
I love how proud Grandma is to have us by her side. She only had two children; my cousin and us three are our only first cousins and she would always make sure we treated each other accordingly. She say, “This is the only [insert adjective] you have. Shouldn’t you be nicer to one another?” This also meant, “God is watching. Stop acting like a bunch ‘a heathens in my house.”
My grandma was very religious and that Christ bust you see was just one of many Christian representations throughout her home; the gold framed thing to the left was an engraved scripture that started with “Thou” or something. And I think the orange bottle may have been the oil my pastor grandpa would use to anoint our foreheads in Jesus’ name before we got back on the road to drive home.
All those books you see on the bookshelves? Each time I’d visit, I’d turn the little key in the glass cabinet lock and inspect the shelves, looking for secret clues that would gift me with something more about my grandma other than what I got from her warm hugs and her sweet yet commanding presence. Today, I only recognize the set of encyclopedias on the third shelf to the left. Ah, I just noticed the book holders on the mantle to the right. Those things were heavy plaster and often covered in dust. And I believe the blue trophy on the mantle belonged to my dad for something related to basketball. That part was unknown because part of the trophy was missing.
When my grandma passed away in July 1994, I believe my dad and aunt cleared the things from her home. She had moved to a condo by then, as the house had become too much for her and my grandpa in their olden years. When they moved her from this house, I wasn’t able to make it there to Indianapolis from college. I don’t know what stuff ended up where. When she died, I failed her again.
I can only hope someone like you or me has found her.