Remembering the Intangible

November 29, 2015 at 8:15 am (Life) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

What is tangible? It is something physical; something that can be touched. Not just seen in the mind’s eye but something actually there. I can see a memory but I cannot always touch it.

Physical objects are tangible.

I spent the last month helping my mother move and discarding physical objects that were important to her but not to me. A plastic rose from my paternal grandfather’s grave was to me just a dusty, plastic annoyance. I tossed it.

All this moving has stirred up a lot of memories. I’ve moved a lot in my life. The last time my mother moved was thirty years ago and her last three house moves have all occurred in the same small town. Her roots there are deep and even though she has only moved one town down the highway it has been a trying move for her.

My roots are not deep. I have transplanted my self many times into many different types of soul. (See my Place I’ve Lived series). In the thirty years since I graduated from High School, I’ve moved at least twenty times. I plan to write about everywhere I’ve ever lived, if not in this blog then in a book. Moving so much has taught me to only hold on to the most practical and useful items. I don’t hold on to items for purely sentimental reasons. Though on occasion I did send them to my mother – one of the things discarded in her recent move was the stuffed unicorn my ex-husband won for me.

My mother had a lot of stuff. I would tease her about being a hoarder even though really she was not. She is of the generation that saves things for a rainy day as you never know what and how something can be re-purposed.

I am not sentimental but as I get older I wish for tangible items that would link me with my ancestors.

What I have I have mostly from my mother’s parents. There are my grandfather’s vintage German books (the small Bible he use to read daily, his children’s catechism texts) that I liberated from my mother’s house because she was storing them in the basement which is death on old books. The Bible is from 1926 and even though I can’t read it, having it gives me pleasure. I can see, in my mind’s eye, my grandfather sitting in his chair and reading it.

Grandfather's Books

Tucked inside one of these books is a letter written in German. It was written the year I was born. I need to get it translated. My mother no longer speaks the language. There is no signature on the letter so I don’t know who wrote it but I assume it was my Grandfather as my Grandmother was illiterate as far as I know. They didn’t educate women when she was growing up. I like to think that if she had been able to read she would have been a bookworm like me. We are so much alike in so many other ways. We were both quiet solemn people who enjoy being alone.

Letter in German

I also recently commandeered my grandfather’s cane. I plan to use it one day when the ice and age make walking an unwelcome hazard – some days it feels like that will happen this winter. My grandfather was a tall man and his cane fits me perfectly. It makes me feel regal rather than aged.

Grandfather's Cane

I have less tangible memories from my father’s parents. My grandfather died when I was thirteen and my grandmother died when I was three thousand miles away in another province. I was not around when they dismantled her house and disposed of everything a life accumulates.

I have a bow-tie quilt that my mother says my grandmother made. The squares feel familiar to me. Did I have a dress made of that gingham red? Did I have a shirt made of that pink? I don’t remember.

BowTie Quilt

I have nothing my paternal grandfather or father made. They were practical men. They used what they made. They lived. They loved. But they were not talkers or writers and in the end, though I know they loved me, I can’t say that I know as much about them as I would like to.

But do we ever really know anybody?

Can love be tangible? Or is it in its very essence intangible; unable to be touched?

I have tangible essence of my mother’s love. When I was sixteen I asked for an afghan in shades of black, red, orange, yellow and white. If you knit you know how hard these dark colours are to work with. She made it for me. There were long afternoons spent knitting and an occasional curse word but I have a tangible object that represents my mother’s love.

When she’s gone there will be something I can touch and wrap myself in and feel her love stretch across miles and time and death.

Colourful Afghans

What is tangible? It is something physical; something that can be touched. Not just seen in the mind’s eye but something actually there. I can see a memory but I cannot always touch it.

I am not sentimental but as I get older I wish for tangible items that will link me with my ancestors.




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