I remember many trips to shopping malls, antique stores, and flea markets as a youngster. My mother once told me that she liked to acquire “stuff,” because as a child she didn't have much. She talked about a doll that she and her two sisters had to share, making its bed in a shoebox with clothes fashioned out of scraps of material that my grandfather, a tailor, brought home. Though if you talk to my two aunts, they will tell you a different story—that my mother (the eldest) somehow didn't share as much as they did.
But in all her acquisitions, I only remember a few things that she actually searched out—a white wicker rocker, a glass and silver match striker, and a cranberry glass pitcher. Cranberry glass is a decorative (not mass produced) glass whose shimmer is achieved by adding gold chloride to the molten glass.
For many years, she used that pitcher at holiday dinners at dessert time, putting in milk for the coffee drinkers. When I was about 15, she delegated that task—filling the pitcher—to me. The memory is vivid so many years later. As I poured the cold milk into the pitcher, I heard a noise, and then noticed a crack near its bottom. I shriveled up; I was devastated. She had searched many years for that pitcher; it was one of her joys; and in one instant, I had destroyed it.
Though upset herself, she tried very hard to console me, claiming blame for the crack. “I am a science teacher,” she said. “I should know that if you pour cold milk into a warm pitcher, the glass will expand...and crack.”
And then the learning moment. “Besides,” she added, “things aren't that important; people are important.”
Her words echoed in my head recently when Doug was in a car accident. Airbags deployed, our new car (only two months old) severely damaged, he emerged without a physical scratch. He was and is still shaken by that experience. Nearly $14,000 later (the final repairs on the loose transmission bolts completed today), he and I are very grateful for our insurance policy with Allstate!
More importantly, I am grateful that he is alive. It's something I’ve reminded him about in the six weeks since the accident: “It's a car; it’s money; it’s upsetting, but it’s not that important. You are important.”
Sometimes in the hubbub of our daily lives, in the rush of work and the race to acquire more things, we forget the basics: “Things aren't that important; people are important.”