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Whittling Away: Puttering


By Dick Brooks

For Capital Region Independent Media

Headshot of a man named Dick Brooks.

Puttering around is an art form that as a fairly new senior citizen I’m trying to fully understand and participate in. It is something that goes with the other responsibilities that fall upon a senior’s shoulders. 

Older folks are supposed to putter around so I devote some time to it daily. Today I was puttering in the dining room, straightening up stuff and moving it from one spot to another, when in the corner cupboard I came across the basket of this year’s Christmas cards. I thumbed through them. 

They should have been discarded due to The Queen’s Anti-Clutter Campaign rules.  Some were beautiful scenes, there were picture cards of various family members and their clans. There were picture cards of folks I didn’t recognize.

There were a bunch of those newsy yearly reports on various family groups and what their year had been like. They don’t interest me much. They are never really filled with stuff I need to know or even want to know, and frankly I don’t know how reliable they are. Things like: Bob was promoted and is now the CEO of such and such a company.  Sally married a Harvard Law graduate and is now living in the south of France where she is heading up a “Save the Whales” group. Our dog won “Best in Show” at Westminster this year — and so on.

I suspect the truth might be more like: Bob lost his job and is drinking too much, we’ve moved into a trailer in our in-laws’ back yard. Sally is dating a high school dropout with Harley tattoos and the dog bit the mailman again. That kind of news would be more interesting.

Not knowing what might be a future family treasure, I put the basket back where I found it.

It did get me thinking about what constitutes a family treasure. All seniors reach a point at which the urge to “downsize” kicks in. What are the things that I’ve got squirreled away that I would keep in my forever pile?

Surprisingly, I realized that my pile wouldn’t have anything of monetary value in it.  Most of it would be considered junk by a stranger going through my stuff. My pile would have the angel tree topper that my dad bought for my first Christmas that’s been on the top of every Christmas tree I’ve ever had. There’s the folder of various little notes that I got from students over the years that I taught. I’d include the album of pictures of my kids at all stages of their lives, pictures of my parents and siblings, pictures of my Queen and I in younger years. The pictures themselves aren’t that important but the memories they conjure up sure are. 

There’s a box of awards I’ve won that I like to thumb through once in a while. My desk has a small clipping from a newspaper showing a little girl giving me a bunch of flowers and thanking me for saving her life; she died five years later. I’d keep that. I have a small bunch of various cards with a rubber band around them in my sock drawer. Father’s Day cards, Valentine’s, handmade cards with crayon drawings on them, ones with sweet notes on them, all keepers. 

I don’t think I’d like to lose the three big binders with more than a thousand pages of newspaper columns that I’ve written because they document the later stages of my life and could show my granddaughter and grandkids yet to come what I was like. 

Funny that all the years I worked towards having a nice house, shiny cars and a bank account that was in black ink, those things didn’t make it into my mental pile of treasures.  The other thing that kind of surprises me was how small that pile would be and how very precious it is to me.  I love these things but I could survive without them because they are all tucked away safely in my heart’s memory banks.

Puttering sure is nice. I’m going to have to try to find time to do more of it.

Thought for the week — “The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Until next week, may you and yours be happy and well.

Reach columnist Dick Brooks at Whittle12124@yahoo.com.

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