We had a quiet Thanksgiving home on our own yesterday. Just the nine of us. Just as we had planned. With all the busy-ness of our day to day living here in this house, it was indeed a nice change of pace to just spend a day making a special dinner and sharing it together. The steady snowfall we awoke to in the morning would have spoiled any plans we might have made for traveling anyway.
After an early afternoon dinner, though, the snow had let up and so we headed over to Dan’s father’s house to bring him and Dan’s brother some pies for dessert.
The mood at Grandpa’s house was relaxed and cheerful. The kids always seem to sense the “happiness” of special days and modify their behavior accordingly. They recited their Thanksgiving poems and watched football with the men. It wasn’t until after double servings of pumpkin and apple pie with heaps of ice cream that the children remembered Grandpa’s basement. Grandpa’s magical basement.
You see, Dan’s mother was a keeper. A saver. A never ever ever throw anything away and if anyone else does take it out of the garbage and pack it away-er. It used to drive her family crazy. And I must admit that I never quite understood it myself. I need my space. It keeps me sane. And I am the first to admit that I can be rather reckless with the black garbage bags. I would rather throw ten things away and wind up missing one of them eventually than keep all ten things piled up in stacks or squirreled away in boxes on the off chance that one of them might possibly come in handy some day.
But Dan’s mother thought differently. She figured if it was good once–or if it might be good ever–it was worth holding on to. And hold on she did. She was astonishingly organized about it. She kept things in their original packaging, with their original receipts, wrapped and labeled, in giant storage bins in the basement.
Which brings us to Grandpa’s magic basement. Though we lost Dan’s mother over 8 years ago, out of respect for her memory, Grandpa has held onto her basement full of “stuff” through the years. And so it was that after double desserts yesterday evening, the children begged Grandpa to bring them downstairs. He consented and the entire gang of them disappeared for nearly an hour.
When they emerged at the top of the basement stairs, their arms were filled with goodies. A guitar. A Mexican marionette with only slightly-tangled strings. A dancing plastic smurf. Hardy Boys books. Unopened cereal box prizes from cereal they don’t make any more (Remember Crispy Critters?). And–here’s the best part–Dan’s entire boyhood collection of Battlestar Galactica and Charlie’s Angels trading cards. Oh yes.
The kids were positively gleeful. “I can’t believe how cool these are!” they shouted. “Grandpa has all the best stuff!”
I reminded them that they have their late grandmother Dolores to thank for all the cool stuff. And I have to wonder at God’s providence in these family matters. No one understood why Dolores was so intent upon stashing away every little thing she came by. Perhaps even she did not understand the motivation behind her drive to save, to keep, and to hold onto.
But I get it now. What she didn’t know was that she was saving cool stuff for her seven grandchildren–seven children who would never have the pleasure of knowing their Grandma here on earth. Seven grandchildren she would have loved with immeasurable love. Seven grandchildren she would have given and given and given to–if only she been granted the opportunity.
It is only through her saving–her compulsive holding on–that Grandma Dolores has managed this connection with her grandkids. These are the things she deemed worthy of saving. These things stored in their dusty 1970s packaging. These things wrapped in plastic and faded yellow paper. These are the things she cherished and she packed away lovingly. Dolores just knew someone would need this stuff someday, and it turns out she was right.
Grandma’s precious stuff is her precious bond to this next generation. And I am grateful for it.