My mother is finally distributing her most precious possessions to her five offspring. Obsessed about the possibly that her children would fight viciously over her life’s collection, she went through law school to specialize in probate law, never intending to practice except to advise herself about her material objects’ dispositions. Is my mother the holder of a priceless Western Asian art collection? A stash of gold bars? Yves Ste. Laurent’s early design sketches? Abe Lincoln’s certified toothbrush? None of the above.
Some of the most personal items are being distributed to establish a legacy at preferred public institutions. Her piano is going to a university music program rather than to one daughter (not me) who she encouraged to play. Makes sense – who wouldn't want a name plaque on an item that exemplifies one’s identity outside the family.
My mother gifted one brother with our grandfather’s roll-top oak desk. I got a grandmother’s books from the late 19th Century, though I don’t read that language and am uninterested in that topic. Part of the reasoning, I know, was that each of us supposedly resembles the original owners of these items, but also was a nod to gender- “appropriateness”. This from an active life-long promoter of women’s equality, in her way. My mother, the Paradox.
Recently my mother drove many miles to hand-deliver a cache of items. Some I had selected from a typed list; others she just tossed in the trunk. Some of these items present ethical dilemmas.
In 1950s America no self-respecting middle- or upper class woman attended nice occasions without a fur stole. This is a wrap made with the fur of some rodent or small animal. The classic is the mink stole. My mother’s is not mink, but it is soft and beige-y. However, other than as a Halloween costume I have no use for it. Similar stoles sell for a mere $20-50; and anyway, it’s offensive to even my fairly moderate animal rights sensibilities. At a consignment shop someone said, “Everyone’s trying to sell stoles.” Someday I’ll dump it off at Goodwill for the tax write-off.
The ivory necklaces
Oh, Mom. Mother. Her Edwardian sensibilities impelled her to travel to every continent on the globe. Items that caught her eye were carted home, things sometimes so fragile that they were transported home in her lap. Things she picked up for her progeny were low-quality tourist bait. My mother toured Vietnam and I really did get just a lousy t-shirt. It went to Goodwill.
In this recent haul my mother gifted me, unsolicited, with two ivory necklaces. They are low quality carvings, and in fact one may be bone. Maybe they’re both bone. I would not be caught dead wearing a necklace made of what was once a poached elephant’s tusk, and certainly not bone. Recently six tons of contraband ivory was turned to dust. To sell these necklaces would support the market value of these despicable items. They will be buried in the backyard. Update: they were thrown in the trash.
Portuguese Bullfight Tile tray
How quintessentially 1950s. I had forgotten the black enameled tiles depict bullfighters. For sale now on eBay - SOLD
It takes guts to run.
In a years-long war zone, the last real but booby-trapped shelter is afire and collapsing. Outside it's storming and freezing cold. There is no sun.
Only some critical variables are clear when need meets opportunity. A few known comforts, long poisoned and broken, are pondered and cast aside. Immediate pain and dire consequences for staying are reviewed. For the desperate and strategic mind, the ill-defined future beckons, come what may.
Even unprepared and barely informed, the ability to act in one’s best interests fuels an immense leap of faith in one’s self.
Without vision, those mired in a perilous present cannot have faith in the future. Only a dependence on luck.
And so she did not run because she was afraid of the present. She ran because she was unafraid of the future.
A battleship turns hard-about mid-ocean. The invested vessel radically changes course over hours, days, weeks, months…years, amidst the sea, against all tides and sharks and everything, turning the rudder this way and that, catching wind and sometimes paddling. A literal spin in place, like the blade on a beanie, takes the shortest time but requires incredible skill, astute judgment, and excellent conditions. Certainty in the need for this strategy, for a fast new direction, bolsters morale in times of anxiety. Vision, again.
The alternative is to chart a long arc around: a little to the right and then a hard left for a long time, straightening out when a viable direction is achieved. But the vision might be forgotten by then, or the objective itself evolves.
If the resources are available - material, intellectual, and psychological - agility supports a positive, rapid conclusion.
Pivots are expensive, often even taking recovery time. Sacrifices may be required, re-orientation. Returning to an intact state in the new conditions depends on the original constitution of the vehicle and person plus advantageous support. Too fast, too hard - poorly informed - and a pivot costs everything. Pivots are brave.
Long ago I made up a coping narrative that would embolden me to handle paralyzing fear. (I wrote more extensively on the topic for my NewYear's Post.) The narrative speaks to the implications of taking action and possible positive outcomes.
Behold. Here's a storyboard that tells that narrative. My visualization is more cinematic, but it gets the gist across. The tools are all available on nearly any PC with Office: ClipArt, PowerPoint, MS Paint, Word. See the controls by hovering over the cartoon. Enjoy.
Experience researcher of built environments with an anthropology provenance. Copyright 2004-2017