I have this one pretty gross memory as a kid that exemplifies my parents’ attitudes toward possessions. My cousins and I were gathered at our house for some occasion, probably Christmas, which we typically hosted for our extended family.
My mom brought out a box of fancy chocolates for us to share. We opened the box and were horrified to find that it was filled with… spiders. So. Many. Tiny. Spiders. Someone looked at the date on the box, and it had expired three years old.
Why would my mom serve something so old? Because we had so much stuff we had lost track of what we had and where we kept it.
I remember our sprawling, ranch-style home being full of knick-knacks, housewares, decorative items, and linens that were never used. There were books in the library that had never been cracked open. Closets full of with clothes that had never been worn. Artwork that was purchased and then lived in the garage collecting dust for decades.
Shopping was our regular family activity. We visited our local mall at least once a week. We’d plan trips to visit outlet stores and malls. Whenever we’d travel, we’d always make time to go shopping for “souvenirs” for ourselves and others. Honestly I think we shopped so much because we were bored and didn’t know what else to do together as a family.
My parents immigrated from a developing country, and faced poverty during much of their growing up years. I’m sure that leaves deep scars and feelings of insecurity when it comes to possessions. It’s not something they’ve ever really been able to talk about, even when asked.
About ten years ago, after the divorce, we moved mom out of her house when it became way too much of a burden for one old lady to maintain. Fortunately we didn’t have too much difficulty getting her to part with a lot of her possessions, unlike a lot of other families I know. So most of it was sold off or given away to charity.
I inherited some of this relationship to possessions. I had a vintage clothing buying phase, a comic book collecting phase, and a hat phase. But as an adult I’ve lived in a series of tiny apartments, so haven’t had the luxury of being able to acquire much without something else having to go. And I’ve never been particularly well off, so couldn’t afford a lot of things that I would have purchased if I had the means.
My faith as a Quaker emphasizes the value of “simplicity,” including ones possessions, lifestyle and clothing choices. I definitely love to glam it up on occasion, but most of what I own is second-hand or gifted to me over the years.
I’m so grateful for what I have — a safe and warm place to live, a stocked pantry and fridge, all the media I might want to consume, and a closet full of clothes that I love to wear.
I make sure all the chocolate gets consumed in my household!