I don’t really consider myself a collector. I can’t think of anything that I always look for when I travel, and my apartment isn’t full of tiny owl figurines or anything of the like.
When I was younger, I collected mementos. My mom and I recently cleaned out the “storage room” at their house. Suffice it to say that personalities burst forth like beacons of light, rather terrifying at times.
I used to save everything – from theater programs to movie stubs to sentimental notes...to rocks. We found an empty Tiffany’s box (seriously, is there any color more beautiful than that box?) with a handwritten note inside: “My first Tiffany’s bag & box! Sterling silver bracelet from Abigail and Michael for my high school graduation. June 2002.”
We also found a box full of little rocks, each one accompanied by a little folded piece of paper with the location and date of each rock’s origin. I think that the only reason I didn’t end up a hoarder is that I didn’t save garbage. I just saved memories in tangible form.
My mom and I completed the “Jamie journey” and moved onto Leah, starting with a plastic bag in a laundry basket that she brought home from college. We spent a good ten minutes trying to figure out why exactly she kept the random things in that plastic bag – things like mostly-gone contact solution. We finally realized that it was literally a bag of garbage that she stuffed in the car haphazardly upon graduation.
If there was ever a true mark of oldest versus youngest child, this is it.
I still collect special mementos now, but not nearly to the same extent. I prefer to collect people. D said recently, “You’re like a friend catcher”, which I thought was perhaps the most wonderful thing anyone had ever said to me.
I do, however, collect wooden spoons, carved by my father. He has carved me one every Christmas for the past five or so years. They are all different, and they are all oh-so-beautiful.
This year, he carved me the most precious little wooden spoon from the same wood as the larger spoon he carved me last year. Yes: Hammer families for Leah, spoon families for me. Papa said that he thought that the end of this spoon was the first one he ever left unsanded, a small attention to detail that only the artistically-minded would really and truly appreciate. I was honored.
It also seemed a little random somehow. But, as Papa explained with a smile and a shrug, “Well, you like little things!”
I do like little things. My favorite meal is tapas-style: Tiny beautiful portions of a plethora of flavors and textures. I could spend all day in a dollhouse store, ogling over all of the miniature furniture and food and newspapers reproduced with the teeniest of brushes in astounding detail. I like to use teaspoons for soup, nothing bigger. I hate shopping in department stores and huge grocery stores: They overwhelm me. Give me a small bodega any day.
I also appreciate the smallest of small: It really doesn’t take much.
Being easily amused is a gift, and I try my darndest not to lose sight of it. Ironically, it’s also the smallest of small that throw me completely off-kilter. A few weeks ago, I tried to open a jar. As a fiercely independent woman, feeling incapable of opening a stupid jar turns me into somewhat of a raging lunatic. I grew so frustrated that I ended up screaming one of those hideous grunt-screams and hurling a dish towel on the floor with all my might – which, granted, was not very satisfying in terms of emotional release, as it drifted down rather slowly and fell silently, mocking me with its ginger grace. D, in one of the only times I have ever seen him stunned into silence, just stared at me wide-eyed.
But the big stuff, the stuff that matters a little, or a lot, more? When it comes to that, I’m always the one saying, “It’ll be fine! Deep breaths. Positive thinking. Mindset matters.”
I feel like that’s more important in terms of overall stress level and blood pressure, right? The big stuff is what leads to chronic mess. The small stuff makes you crazy for a hot second, or good solid 30 minutes, but then it passes. And, usually, the most frustration you feel is the stupidity of letting the stupid little things get the best of you.
But give me a tough lid, and all hell breaks loose. No deep breathing there! It’s about the battle! It’s all about conquering that stupid jar with its stupid mocking lid.
Honestly, it’s one of the few times I really care about winning...against an inanimate object.
So perhaps the little wooden spoon is a perfect reminder to not sweat the little stuff. Maybe it’s a perfect reminder to “take a beat” before reacting, or to respond to tiny daily setbacks with something like, “Ouch.” Maybe it’s a perfect reminder that those little things that get us down are helpful life lessons – and that, in about three seconds, they won’t matter at all.
It’s really quite easy to sweat the small stuff, but it’s also exhausting, and it’s a great way to lose sight of all of the big stuff that’s pretty darn good overall.
So, Pops, thanks for my little wooden spoon. Bet you didn’t know it was even more special than you intended.