A life lived is not about things

Archived | January 24, 2013 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’ve been helping my mother sift through my grandmother’s things and what a task that is. Just enough to fill a small apartment in a lovely home for the elderly, but still. A lot. I’m struck by two things: the emotion involved in such an endeavor, and the beautiful and strange and sometimes wild assortment of things we gather in our lives.
It’s all got me thinking about exit strategy. Mind you, I certainly don’t intend to leave the planet for a good fifty years, but still. I have thoughts. The last thing I want is to leave stuff all the heck over for people to deal with. My other grandmother, bless her sweet heart, was not a hoarder but she did — having grown up during the Depression — tend to gather things left and right. Plus, she was a ceramics enthusiast (mostly elves and Christmas trees) and a believer in using a plastic bag over and over again until it disintegrates. I’m not judging her, not at all. I understand, and in many ways admire how she lived. But when the time came to empty out her house, well, we had a crew and it took weeks.
This time around, it was a matter of days. We sorted through old cards and clothing and wrapping paper carefully saved. Dishes and jewelry and photos. My grandmother owned 13 purses, each of which contained at least one Kleenex and a piece of candy or two. I didn’t take much with me — some photos and scarves and a small lamp and a few lovely plates.
Perhaps it’s silly of me, but my strategy includes a kind of paring down through my life. I don’t gather much, but who can help it? I tell the kids, assure them, that when I go, they will be able to open the hall closet and find three boxes labeled with their names, and that will be that. It’s a nice thought, but I’m thinking there will be a bit more than that. All these books, and my collection of holly-adorned plates and ornaments, and some silver jewelry and an array of wooden spoons. Mindful then, that a life lived is not about things, but there are things in a lived life. Can’t get away from it. What I hope is that what I leave behind will be, as is with both of my grandmothers, my words, and my way of inhabiting the world. That the words will be wise and powerful, and that my kids might say I lived well, and had a good heart. In the meantime, I’ll keep working at maintaining a sane amount of stuff, have a garage sale in the spring.
I’m not the biggest fan of canned pie filling, but it works in a pinch. Feel free to slice your own apples for this one, but if you want to throw a treat together in a minute, this cake will fill your home with good smells and heat up the house in the baking.
Apple Spice Dump Cake
1 package spice cake mix
2 (21 ounce) cans apple pie filling
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground allspice
1 T white sugar
¾ cup butter
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350. Pour the cans of apple pie filling into a 9 x 13 inch rectangular pan. In a small bowl, mix together cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and sugar. Sprinkle mixture over pie filling. Pour the dry box of cake mix over apples. Dot with butter and scatter nuts on top. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour, until cake is brown on top and bubbling on the sides. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped topping.