Sunday, November 1, 2015

My Anti-Anti-Clutter Crusade

            The most recent anti-clutter, get-organized-by-throwing-stuff-out, Twenty-first Century minimalist adaptations of feng shui, guilt-inducing, how-to handbooks are best sellers, but I do not subscribe to their message. On the other hand, I am not a shop-til-you-drop consumer who hangs out at the mall or online lusting after the latest and greatest must-haves-of-the-month.
            I don’t like a mess, but I rather enjoy meaningful clutter. I like gee-gaws, knick-knacks, tchotchkes. I like souvenirs, mementoes, keepsakes, and the stories they contain. I love heirlooms and hand-me-downs and collections; I really love collections.
            My home is filled with stories – short stories and epic novels – manifested in the physical forms of all the little (and big) treasures I’ve collected, gathered, accumulated over a lifetime. I have souvenirs from vacations and adventures, some purchased, some merely picked up off the ground and stuck in a pocket. I have hand-me-downs from old friends and deceased relatives. And I have mementoes chosen for their symbolic meaning at a significant moment in my life. I have ticket stubs, playbills, postcards, and handcrafted goodies.
            My treasures are arrayed, assembled, displayed all around my little home – in bookcases, on walls, in bowls, behind glass, on bulletinboards, in scrapbooks -- bringing me comfort, reflecting smiles, and reminding me of the great adventure stories of my existence and the dear friends who are characters alongside me in those tales.
            In a Grand Anti-Anti-Clutter Gesture, I intend to spotlight, one at a time, some of the gee-gaws and keepsakes from my trove.

Grandma Gladys’ Turkey   

            This large autumn-colored serving dish, in the shape of a proud tom turkey, sat center-stage at every Griffin Thanksgiving gathering of my childhood. Grandma Gladys was an extraordinary cook, having been raised on a Quaker farm, who produced vast spreads at each holiday, Thanksgiving being perhaps her finest.
            Succulent turkey, savory dressing, cranberries, potatoes, both sweet and mashed, gravy, three vegetables, and fresh rolls and colorful garnishes down the center of the large dining table, china and silver place settings around its edge, with several pies rested on the sideboard. Grandpa sat in his place at the head of the table, carving the turkey. Grandma sat at the foot of the table, nearest the kitchen, so she could bounce up and down to fetch more and more food. My parents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my sister and I, we surrounded the food with soft laughter and quiet conversation.
            “More turkey meat! More turkey meat!” That’s the excited line I repeated over and over from my telephone-book-booster-seated chair when learning to talk at my second Thanksgiving, in a story I’ve heard repeated every November for sixty years!  
             I am the second oldest of the nine cousins, so I watched as we squeezed more and more chairs around the table, until it could hold no more. Then, the Kids' Table was created in the den, and we older cousins had our own little party at our own private table!
Gladys Miles Griffin - My Grandma
            One year, my cousins and I began the tradition of sneaking into the dining room to snatch pitted black olives from their crystal serving dishes, handfuls each, to mount on our fingertips. Then we’d chase one another out of the dining room, Grandma behind us shaking a wooden spoon in our direction and laughing. She out-smarted us by holding back extra bowls of olives for dinnertime.
            My grandma passed away long ago, back when I was in high school. Griffin family holiday feasts continued, moving from one son-and-daughter-in-law’s house to the next, for decades. My cousins and I have grown, married, had children of our own, and spread out across the country.
Only on rare occasion do we gather as family, but each of us has created our own Thanksgiving traditions that carry on those Grandma nurtured in us so many years ago. Being a vegetarian, I no longer eat “turkey meat”, but still love the rest of the fixings. I still gather with my family and friends who have become family around an extended table to share our gratitudes and break bread. I’ve even been known to put black olives on my fingers and wiggle them, just like we did as kids.
            I am grateful to be the keeper of Grandma Gladys’ Turkey. Throughout the year, he sits atop a high shelf in my dining room, looking down on all the gatherings that take place there. I can glance up and look him in the eye when I’m eating my morning cereal and sipping my coffee and remember all those Thanksgivings Past. Today, on the first of November, he moved down to the coffee table, where, as the regal centerpiece, he is also the central character in one of my life stories.

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