The red dictionary in its self contained holder sat on her shelf above her typewriter for as long as I can recall her writing space in her Newton, Massachusetts apartment. Her writing space was where she typed all of recipes on index cards for me for my 21st birthday request. Her writing space was where she wrote illegible handwritten notes to thank people or correspond with old friends because this was all before email.
She being Kitsie, one of my beloved grandmothers, my mother’s mother who loved language and used phrases like, “She was a colorless girl,” to describe a plain Jane with low energy and not much of a vivid personality. “He who hath no expectations shan’t be disappointed,” was another requote. “Enough blue in the sky to make a Dutchman’s pants,” was another one to describe whether there would be enough blue in the sky to turn the semi cloudy day into a sunnier one.
The red fabric covered dictionary along with her stapler, strong, sturdy, heavy and weighted sits next to my computer mirroring where it would have been in relation to her typewriter. I don’t really remember its specific placement, but after she died, my aunts and I went through her things and along with the red dictionary from 1969, I hungrily claimed the stapler as my own. This gun metal greenish grey stapler has been with me ever since. Every time I staple anything and I staple a lot because of my business paperwork, I am grounded with its vintage well made structure of the past when things like staplers were made to last. Before some Madman type character sitting around a conference table at a meeting came up with the idea to make shitty things because their company realized if they continued to make staplers that never needed to be replaced, how would the company be able to sell more staplers to the masses?
I’m not really sure if this was the case, but it does seem that cars, refrigerators, washers and driers are built to wear out forcing consumerism on us because we cannot live without these things. When did our world become so disposable? As brilliant as those Madmen may have thought it was, just take a ride to a dump and see where all of these ideas ended up in the mass pile of appliances that we now have to figure how our earth is supposed to process them.
My other grandmother, Isabelle always said that she spent the first half of her marriage accumulating stuff and the last half trying to get rid of the stuff. I can relate as I have been really considering the amount of stuff I have accumulated in my 52 years. I started cleaning the shit out of my basement and am embarrassed by what I have accumulated; a literal weight going on beneath my feet.
At 52, surviving breast cancer twice now, so far anyway, after all it has only been SIX WEEKS, though it may seem morbid to some, the pragmatism I learned from both of my grandmothers is taking over my starry eyed sentimental collector self. Breast cancer no matter how early we caught it has made me face my mortality. It makes me rise to the word, RESPONSBILITY, that my grandparents taught me as I think about my son and my friends having to go through all of my shit if I were to leave this planet. The burden of having to get rid of it all and it ending up in places other than the dump has created a sense of urgency as I consider the quantity.
I have way too much stuff.
I have started giving it away and it has not made one dent. There are the valuable things I have, like my Great Grandfather’s silver Kiddish cups my family has used for Passover services for over seventy five years, and tea cups from Russia and Germany from both sides of my Great Grandmother’s families.
There are the sentimental things whose value is only in the heart connection I feel when I look at them, like the stapler and the red dictionary; no one else knows their histories, except for me and frankly no one really cares either. The turquoise kitchen pieces from the fifties, or the rusty pink cannisters I found at a yard sale for ten cents that I actually went out looking for that day. They are reminders for me that I am always divinely taken care of and everything happens in the divine right order. Like when I am having a creative thought and see a cardinal at the exact same time, I like signs like this, they are affirming and energizing.
Besides “the stuff,” when I finally made it down into my basement on Sunday, it took me an hour just to go through the paint cans. What the fuck is a single woman who has never painted a wall in her entire life going to do with all of these paint cans? Besides the obvious ones that are from over ten years ago and need to be trashed, how about the cans of almost full colors that I have accumulated to do what with, touch up a spot on a wall? When I am ready to touch up a wall, I will likely be ready to paint it a different color.
When I consider the literal weight of all of this stuff living in the foundation of my home, I am concerned about the psychological impact it is having on my spirit, my creativity and I know it needs to be freed. I also know that there are items I can never release and my son will have to figure it out or keep them as his own reminders, afterall maybe no one needs a real live vintage dictionary that doesn’t have words like “google” as in “to google something,” or “cell phone,” but everyone still needs a stapler, right?

The red dictionary and the infamous stapler

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self proclaimed lover of all things beauty, business + lifestyle, I write because it feels good.