My mother said choosing birthday and holiday gifts for me was easy. Unlike family members who lived mostly in their heads, I liked things.
Me, materialistic? I never shop just for the fun of it. I wear clothes till they’re full of holes. But I've come to admit my mother was right. I like many things for the personal meanings they hold. Mugs made by my Aunt Eileen, founder of the Potters’ Club (now Visual Arts Centre) in Montreal. Carved owls from visits to San Antonio and Greece, and an owl pendant from my spouse, celebrations of the barred owl that hoots in our woods.
A high shelf in our living room holds my grandmother’s best doll, Ila; my mother’s best doll, Dorothy; and my best doll, Carol. I treasure the sense of connection back through generations of girlhood. Acquiring a brand-new trio of exquisite dolls holds no appeal.
Stuff is still in boxes in the basement from packing up my parents’ house after they died. I've never unpacked my parents’ ornate 1930s wedding plates, which I keep because my father asked me to. One friend in the midst of closing up her mother’s home commented that you can pass along things, but you can’t always pass along meanings.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.