The Importance of Things

While I was alone in my cluttered office my wife came in with a pair of my jeans. I’d been working in the yard building a sidewalk of crushed rock for her under the clothesline I’d designed and hand-built last summer. I’d forgotten to clean out the cuff of my jeans, which typically fill with rocks and rock dust after an afternoon smashing the rock by hand (I like doing work by hand). She’d come in to tell me she’d found a collection of about a dozen and a half BBs I’d had in the coin pocket.

She said, “I was shaking your jeans out in the garage and these fell out. I picked up as many as I could.”

“Thank you,” I replied. “I appreciate your dedication in taking care of me!”

A smile lit her face as she bent over kissing me deeply.

The two cents worth of insignificantly small BBs could have been left on the dusty garage floor. My wife cared enough about me to carefully pick them up one by one, for which I was grateful. Grateful for her, for her love and concern for me. Yet they were just BBs, so what if I hadn’t been? What difference would a few BBs mean? There weren’t enough to fill a tea spoon, yet…

I remember reading a similar story years ago about a man and his wife’s love of kitsch tchotchkes (small and inexpensive decorative items, usually considered in poor taste). She enjoyed finding them at out of the way shops and online and proudly displayed them on the window ledge of the immense bay window facing the street.

Yet, because these were thrift shop finds no more than a dollar of so in cost, whenever she was out of the room, he’d move them to the entertainment cabinet out of sight of the street. She immediately returns them to the window when she noticed, and he complained, whereas she quietly said, “I like them.” He couldn’t understand her fascination and love of collecting and displaying them, and he let them become an irritant to him.

His wife, who’d been in ill health for some time, eventually succumbed to her illness and passed away. Though he disparaged her collection, the collection which brought her great satisfaction and joy, he genuinely loved his wife and mourned her loss from that day onward. After time had passed his children began to insist it was time to move on. Either pass on her things or store them away, they said. Move on.

So, one day, while he began sorting through her belongings he noticed the dusty tchotchkes on the cabinet (where he last moved them). In a crushing moment of realization, he understood what they’d meant to her. He realized he had made her hobby into a point of division, not union in their lives. Realizing that he’d been wrong, instead of encouraging and supporting her, he’d been discouraging and resentful toward his wife. In tears he gently dusted off the small ceramic figurines and proudly moved them to the window ledge for all to see.

As far as I know the cute figurines are still on the window ledge to this day.

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