the things we keep #2

Uncategorized Aug 17, 2022

There are all sorts of reasons that we collect and save stuff during our lifetimes.  Actress Jean Smart loves old things because of the stories they tell.   She says, “I’ve been fascinated by where it’s been, who’s owned it before and what their lives were like.”  It is for that same reason that I can’t quite part with these ladies.

My mother was always a collector of old frames.  Sometime in the 1960s-70s she scooped up four damaged, matching, oval frames at a garage sale.  The glass was so covered with grime that she gave no prior thought to what was in the frames; she simply hoped that the frames themselves were salvageable. 

When she got them home, she cleaned off the glass and found four young women peeking out.  These girls represent the four seasons, although in our family we’ve never been in total agreement as to which is which.  Winter is self-evident, but is spring wearing flowers in her hair or is that summer?  Maybe summer is crowned in wheat, or is that fall?  And are those green leaves of spring or summer or turning autumn leaves on the head of one of the ladies?  There is no legend or artist attribution to check. 

Once my mother realized what she had, she also recognized that restoring the frames was beyond her ability.  However, she had a friend who was up to the job, and this friend would bring them back to glory for free.  All she wanted in exchange was a small antique chest that sat at the bottom of our basement steps.  There was only problem.  Once the pictures were restored and the swap was arranged, Mom learned that one of her own daughters had always wanted to keep that chest for herself.  So, my mother went back to her friend and said that she couldn’t give her that piece of furniture—could she give her something else?  Her friend was incensed, and even a beautifully handcrafted piece of clothing that my mother made especially for her wouldn’t appease her.  They never spoke again. 

Mom kept those four ladies in a prominent place in each of her homes.  I always wondered if they were a bitter reminder of a friendship lost.  When Mom died, I tried to let them go.  No one in the family had a place for them, and antique dealers said that without any attribution or provenance they weren’t worth anything, lovely as they are.  I thought about giving them to a thrift shop, but in the end, I just couldn’t do it.  That’s when my husband and I placed them in our bedroom, and every night I sleep under the sad but watchful eyes of these women, who cost my mother something more precious than the faux gold-leaf on the frames.  I’m not sure who in this story wronged whom, the one who reneged on the deal or the one who rejected the peace offering of a friend.  But I find rest in knowing that God can restore all the broken relationships in our lives, if we seek his reconciliation.

Love, Liz 

“Purity of heart allows us to see more clearly, not only our own needy, distorted, and anxious self, but also the caring face of our compassionate God.  When that vision remains clear and sharp, it will be possible to move into the midst of a tumultuous world with a heart at rest.”         Henri Nouwen