Sentimental journeys reminding of who we are

“Décor must have sentimental value. A house must tell a story.”

—Mark Hampton (1940 –1998) American interior designer for Brooke Astor, Estee Lauder, Mike Wallace, and three U.S. presidents.

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My house tells a story for sure. Many, to be truthful. Some pretty cool if I do say so myself, others of perhaps questionable value. All of them, sentimental journeys that remind me of who I am.

I sense a loss of appreciation for sentimental value in segments of society today. And that’s sad. Sentiment connects us with our past and our history. Life, for me, would be cold and frightening without memories derived from parts of the past that can be seen, touched, heard, or appreciated.

“Now I don’t know what to do with all of it,” a friend reported recently about a collection of things she saved from her son’s childhood. A baseball glove, school pictures, toys, and other mementos that once resided on his bedroom shelf defining the years of youth for a now 40-year-old business professional. “He didn’t want them,” his confused mother exclaimed. “He said throw them away, but I can’t do that.”

The story was a familiar one. The only difference was my mom threatened to throw it away. About 35 years ago, she called with the same message for me and both my sisters. “I’ve cleaned out the attic and I have things that belong to you. If you want them, come get them or I’m putting them in the trash.”

I wasted no time retrieving the treasure trove from my youth: Boy Scout merit badges, model cars, books, and more. A slice of history from my childhood that waited 20 years at my mother’s house to achieve sentimental value status.

In the years since, the sentimental decor in my home has grown with memories confirming the wisdom of Dr. Suess: “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until becomes a memory.”

Just a few memories I live with include a 100-year-old buffet that sat in the same corner of my grandmother’s dining room for 63 years, where I could count on finding a full cookie jar. They also include a maple rocking chair that was my mothers for some 60 years and A 1955 Seeburg Jukebox I’ve owned for more than half of its life, a source of entertainment my children when they were in grade school. Even little things like my first driver’s license, dated 1964. And they are just the tip of the sentimental iceberg at my house.

That collective sentimental journey extends even to my garage where my grandmother’s car sits. The 1957 Ford she bought new in November of 1956 isn’t worth a lot monetarily. Still, it hoards a priceless package of memories. It’s a car in which I rode at the age of nine, in which my grandfather taught me to drive, and a car that often served me as a teenager when I needed a vehicle for a Saturday night date.

Last Saturday, a new source of sentimental journeys joined the collection. A simple chifforobe occupying the same place at my grandmother’s house in Pittsburg for at least 43 years that I can remember made its way to my house. On top of it once sat an antique clock that my grandfather wound religiously every Saturday night. The drawer under the mirrored hatbox door was storage for their valuable papers, including the title and registration documents for the old Ford for which I’ve been the caretaker for 40 years. The bottom drawer held my father’s childhood toys with which I, too, played and was a stash for treats, usually a bag of star mints.

When Granny passed away, the old chifforobe went to my niece’s house, where it stayed for many years before ending up in my sister’s spare bedroom. Lacking space for it, she offered it to me. She knew the answer before she asked.

So, now it’s the newest piece of sentimental décor adding stories to my house. Stories about watching my grandfather wind the clock and my grandmother methodically keeping up with her important papers. And about my going to that bottom drawer knowing the tiny book about “Little Tex’s Escape” and a star mint was waiting for me.

—Leon Aldridge

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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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