The Long Life of Things

by jkatejohnston

8 November 2015

Dear Max,

Yesterday I sorted through my jewels. I have some cool old costume jewelry from Grandma Clara and her wedding ring and engagement ring, also some earrings that Grandma Maxine gave me with gold nuggets for pendants. I had it all spread out on the bedroom floor when Enzo came in. He was impressed, especially by a necklace/bracelet/earrings set made of giant diamonds. I explained that they were crystals, not diamonds, but still really cool and old. And I showed him the watch that Teresa gave me twenty-one years ago. On the back it says Oscar to Doll 12-25-1930. Maybe Doll had to sell it during the Depression. I told Enzo it’s not silver or gold or even white gold—but platinum, with real tiny diamonds and sapphires too. I wound it and held it to each of our ears in turn. It went tick-tick-tick-tick-tick, so quietly.

Enzo said, “When I’m grown up, this is so going to be my dowry.”

It made me think about the long life of things: Grandma Clara’s broken umbrella with the possibly Bakelite handle, still in the umbrella stand at the office that I left three years ago to take the job I have now. I like seeing it there every Friday after work, when I come in the front door to meet my lawyer pals for sewing and wine. As long as it’s still there, I haven’t left the old office entirely, and my grandma hasn’t entirely left me. But I also remember that my mom has a bunch of Grandma Clara’s crappy stuff—things none of us kids wanted—and she can’t get rid of it, because it’s family crap. And it’s a burden to her.

And I remember about three years ago, when we moved Grandma Maxine into the house where she lives now, putting rolling pins and cookie cutters and strange little grinders away—back, way back in the backs of cupboards, and thinking, next time someone touches this, she’ll be gone. We could have left it all boxed up. Or we could have taken it to the thrift store. But that didn’t seem right, so we put the things away.

10 November 2015

Dear Max,

I forgot to write that last Sunday Enzo and I went swimming at the Y. He uses the men’s locker room now. The first few times he did it, I was miserable. But after he did it a few times without coming out too raped, I got used to it, and now I just think—what’s taking him so long?

So last Sunday he came out of the locker room, and his clean dry clothes had big wet spots, as if he’d dropped them in the shower or maybe put them on without drying off first. I suggested that next time he put his dry clothes into a locker while he showers and dries off.

He said, “I think I need a little kit.”

“A kit?”

“Yeah. With a comb to look my best. And TicTacs.”

“Like your own gym bag with a towel and your clothes and all your stuff in it?”

“Yeah. And maybe deodorant.”

I remembered when we looked at Grandma Clara’s jewels, which were stored in one of her old purses, he found a comb in a side pocket and tried it out. It was made of cream-colored hard plastic. How do I explain how different that comb looks and feels from any comb you could buy now? It’s chalk and cheese. He seemed impressed by it. So we’ll put it in his kit.

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