Saturday, 8 March 2014

Guiltless Giving

I read an article from the Boston Globe about the "gift that keeps on giving - guilt, that is" and laughed out loud.  With a downsizing move in the very near future, this has been a daily topic of discussion between my two brains - the Pragmatic one and the Nostalgic one ! 

The conversation often goes like this:

N-Brain:  "I think that every grandchild should have a tea cup from their great grandma - you can't give a stranger that precious bit of china commemorating the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II, for goodness sake!  My grandmother protected that delicate piece of memorabilia for what - 50 years!"  

P-Brain (love that little pun!):  "You have never sipped one cup of tea out of that cup since the day it saw the light of day!  It has been packed in a box for like 30 years now and moved along with you each and every time.  Let it go - it will be the perfect piece for a royalist collector somewhere!  Your grandchildren will thank you!"

Let me weigh in now that no one brain wins every debate - at least not in my head!  Tears sometimes blind my pragmatic self and ruthless energy sometimes pushes past a guilt-driven wish to pay the kindness (and memories) forward.  I expect my children daring to read this blog to smile on cue when I only seek to "pay forward" what my mother and grandmother paid forward to me! and then, say "thanks, but no thanks, mom" and hand it back!

So, how do you decide what stays and what goes?  If you have personally reached this stage, do you get the proverbial answer "not now, Mom, but maybe in 10 years" or "yes" when their eyes are glazed over to hide the "what  will I ever do with that " look.  Having delivered the full set of china to my nostalgic, sweet Oregon daughter, I am now prone to be ruthless and yet I dither away.

There is a lingering fear, from my perspective, that awful moment when I find out I gave Daughter #1's wished for item to Daughter #2 - hurting feelings, playing favorites, tossing the important stuff, gifting the ugly - I think you get it.  I will need strength of conviction and maybe a small glass of Merlot to see me through those moments.  I love you, daughters-of-mine, each of you , so very much - maybe so much, I will not weigh you down with my rubble!!

I think back to the scene following my own mother's death, when her much downsized possessions were laid out in full view and realized then that the most precious items were the much used aprons she sewed from dress scraps, the rolling pin she had saved from the bakery she and my dad had owned or the recipes - handwritten on cardboard saved from pantyhose packaging and envelopes - those are things memories are made of and not the lovely little tea cup living out its life in a box in the basement.

So, pictures have been sorted and can be discarded without guilt by the receiver.  The china will be gifted or given away.  The jewelry has been labelled.  And this weekend, the dishes will be sorted.  Pictures of keepsakes will be circulated and all can speak up for what is up for grabs.  The following weekend, the charity of my choice will receive the remaining pieces - and DONE!  Or almost anyway.  I anticipate I will still be anguishing over some long ago crystal glass or bowl.  Perhaps there will be room in our new home for one box of guilt-free gifts and memories! 


  1. The not now, maybe in ten years is a phrase I heard over and over. Finally I gave so much away that even my children were taken aback! :)

    1. I sent out a serious email asking them to speak up or I would give it all away - they spoke up! :)

  2. I love this! Although I am in my 40s, I am trying to downsize our possessions for this very reason. My mother in law is great at it...she hands it down or gets rid of it. I used to be terrible about it, and especially with gifts. I held on to a piece of art that I hated that my brother gave me for years, because I felt bad about getting rid of it. But I would never have hung it up. I finally sold it at a tag sale.

    1. Hi Michelle, Thanks for your comment - I doubt I would have been much of a down sizer in my 40's! Even struggled in my 50's!! But there is a freedom that moves in when there is room! Every piece of art that followed me to this recent new home is cherished. And I just have to believe that the tea cups and doilies that did go to my daughters will bring joy or at least a "giggle" as they say "what was Mom thinking!"


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