Someone Else's Keepsake

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Today, I welcome guest blogger and buddy, David Aft, who wanted to surprise his lovely wife with a special gift and a story on this day of love. David sent his story to me last week and asked that I wait and post it today. Happy Valentine's Day, Pauli Aft!

Enjoy David's story titled, "Someone Else's Keepsake."

From time to time the spirits who look after the weather issue a perfect mid-winter day.  Sunshine animates the crisp air and a little breeze reminds you that it’s not quite spring.

It was on just such a morning that I noticed a garage sale at a small house near my office.  The purveyors were busily answering questions and collecting a dollar here, fifty cents there and generally making good-natured small talk.

One of them told me the house had belonged to his sister, who had recently passed away after a long struggle with dementia.  Hundreds of pieces of her estate were gently organized in the open carport and driveway.  As I surveyed the diverse offerings, I thought about the things we accumulate in our lives.  We accumulate experience, knowledge, insight and perhaps even a little wisdom.  We also accumulate a host of worldly goods that survive us as a collection of artifacts—a modest Rosetta stone of our earthly lives.

This notion added depth and a certain poignancy to the sale, and for a moment, I was not looking at a collection of knick-knacks and lightly used kitchen ware, but a final testament.

 Amidst the possessions, David spotted a tiny replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Amidst the possessions, David spotted a tiny replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Amidst the sprawl, a short set of metal shelves held about forty smaller items.  These seemed a little more personal and a couple of them caught my attention.  A small brass replica of the Eiffel Tower peeked out from behind a very interesting lucite paperweight from the seventies.  I asked the gentlemen working the sale about the tower, and he looked at it and told me he remembered it was special to his sister, but he didn’t know or recall why.

My imagination raced just a little, as I pictured a young woman looking at the miniature and dreaming of going to Paris.  Maybe someone had given it to her as a souvenir from a memorable week visiting outdoor cafes and museums.  Maybe it was her keepsake, a memento of a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

 David and Pauline Aft posing with the grand Eiffel Tower.

David and Pauline Aft posing with the grand Eiffel Tower.

These thoughts were quickly followed by an abrupt realization that those stories would never be told, as they were the provenance of a woman whose memories had left her long before her quiet demise.

I stood there and realized I was surrounded by a sea of keepsakes, de-tethered from the memories that made them special—once again, empty vessels perhaps waiting to be given root in a new imagination.

I have a friend and fellow garage sale enthusiast who told me some things are just not meant to end up in the junk pile, and I think I agree with her—sometimes a keepsake can be repurposed, with its own story and pedigree enriched by another chapter.

I purchased the tiny tower, along with the lucite paperweight from the Seventies.  I plan to keep the lucite piece at my office and give the Eiffel Tower to my beautiful wife on Valentine’s Day as a reminder of our spectacular and romantic trip to Paris a couple of years ago.  They will each enjoy life anew and join the family of keepsakes that accent our story and become, all too briefly, the keepers of our own memories.

—David Aft, February 2016 (for his wife, Pauline)

Thanks for the blog post, David. And again, Happy Valentine's Day Project Keepsake readers. Keep those stories coming, and remember, everyone has a keepsake, and every keepsake has a story to tell.