One Saturday about 50 years ago, I was outside in the backyard playing “Lost Kids” with my brothers. Suddenly the most spectacular crashing noise startled us back to reality. We crept toward the side yard just in time to see a cardboard box fly through the air and land on a bedspring. In unison, we three dodged backward as another box, and then a third thudded onto the pile. The bedspring was one of those old jobs made of metallic straps. It recorded the landing of each item with a resounding “thwang!” Two and one half stories above, we heard a steady grumble of profanity accompany each subsequent launch. Mom was cleaning the attic.
That spring day she ruthlessly pitched* grandmother’s clothing, furniture, Dad’s darkroom equipment, and a pickup truck’s worth of miscellaneous goods to the ground. I tried to salvage a couple of grandma’s things. She had this really cool straw hat – a very wide brim without a crown, embroidered all around in gaudy raffia flowers. Mom would not hear of it.
Jean was all about function. She cared very little about form. Mom was a very pragmatic woman and was not inclined to surround herself with trinkets or useless items. If an item had outlived its purpose, it was kicked to the curb. So, why then, did she hold on to these two?
These ceramic figurines sat on Mom’s bureau. I remember being fascinated by them when I was old enough to wander into her room and snoop through her drawers. They clearly held a special meaning for my mother. A gift from Dad? A souvenir from a trip? I’ll never know.
What’s more mystifying is why I hold on to them. They are not the sort of ornament that I would pick up for myself. I want to make this perfectly clear to my readers! Muffet and Jack are NOT my style! However, after mom died, and my brothers and I divided the contents of her estate, they came to stay with me.
There is a lesson here that still needs completion. For the longest time, I did not understand the compunction to own ornaments, to acquire things like spoons or Royal Doulton. Why would anyone want to surround themselves with stuff that only needs to be dusted? Besides I am frugal (cheap, cheap!) like Jean.
Once or twice during a purging phase of my own, I tried to throw them away. It wasn’t time. I need them yet to remind me, that yes, it is important to credit an article’s utility. But I also need to acknowledge that trinkets like this do serve a purpose, a function. They represent the need to surround yourself with beauty or with articles that allow you to connect with something deeper, more emotional and significant than functionality alone.
*Pitched was one of Mom’s favourite words. That and “hold your horses”, and “It’s for the cat”, meaning “worthless”.
*** *** *** *** *** ***
Keepsake: Function over Form is Part One in a Series
Little Miss Muffet and Little Jack Horner by Ceramic Arts Studio, Madison Wisconsin