Thursday, April 27, 2017

From the archives: Treasured Possessions

First posted May 2013. Based on The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Chapter 5. Edited somewhat.

Heirloom-quality tablecloths, candlesticks, silver spoons, fine bedcovers? I don't relate much to the particular home-making items that Edith Schaeffer recommends we acquire in Chapter 5.  A candlestick wouldn't necessarily make a hotel room "homier" for me (and do hotels allow you to burn candles in the rooms, anyway? I'm thinking it might be a bit dangerous). 

And Edith knew as well as anyone that "lifetime" treasures could easily be lost or broken.  It was her sweaters that got chewed in the opportunity-for-recycling incident she describes in this chapter, and her wedding china that reportedly got broken by the Schaeffers' constant stream of houseguests.  Moths (mice?) and rust corrupt, cigarette sparks make holes, and careless guests break dishes.  It's a bit of a paradox that Edith describes, in such detail, the value of having your own special stuff; but that she could also see possessions as belonging, ultimately, to the Lord; that dishes and rugs could be somewhat expendable in the service of the Kingdom.

I do have a few treasured family items, but they're not the sort of things you'd want to cart around in a suitcase or that you'd use to dress up a temporary space: a piece of red glassware that was my grandmother's, a Psalter in German script that was passed down through her family, some photographs, my mother's earrings, and so on. I don't think those are the "treasured possessions" that Edith was talking about.
"What about me?"
I think she was shooting more for two types of home-related treasures. 

One would be just familiar, everyday (but also beautiful and individual) home stuff that becomes so much a part of your life that you, or your family, can't imagine home without it.  These days, instead of silver spoons, we might think of afghans or scrap quilts, pottery coffee mugs or bowls, a something-a-day calendar (somebody recently mentioned one with daily paintings), personalized pillowcases.  And her point is that if you don't have any homey stuff like that, then you need to get busy and find some, or make some, or let your kids make some.

The second would be seasonal, ritual-type treasures, things like Christmas ornaments or a birthday plate.

 I'm thinking about my grandparents' move to a granny flat, after forty years in one house.  Somehow they managed to make their new living room look something like the old one.  My grandpa still had a special chair, and some of his steam-train memorabilia.  Grandma's coffee table was still topped by a particular millefiore paperweight.
Here's the last point: if Jesus said to store up treasures in heaven, not on earth, isn't that a good attitude to have?

Maybe.  But as Edith says...without any material connections, we risk becoming splintered, unsettled.  Our longings for a home on earth may simply reflect our longings for home in heaven, but while we're here, can't we make our homes places that we care for, and where we know we are also cared for?

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