Tuesday, June 8, 2010

reunions and reflections on tarnish

i’m on my way back home from dallas…the final foray into processing my mom’s estate is over.  it has been 6 months since her death; time to clean up the house and get it ready to put on the market. 

so much stuff to sift and sort…there’s the usual paperwork, of course.  lots of clutter to rummage thru and toss.  and then there’s those reunions with things that evoke poignant memories: the cheap aluminum sugar bowl i remember seeing on the table breakfast-after-breakfast from my earliest days in that house; christmas records i used to listen to as i watched the colored lights reflecting off the gaudy aluminum christmas tree…yeah, we had one of those…it was painfully smaller than the one the what’s-their-names down the street had.

there have also been some surprises, like finding a copy of the Dallas Times Herald dated Nov 22, 1963; the hand-made guest book my parents had at their wedding – all those years i’d been snooping thru their drawers and closets and i’d never run across that!   and baby clothes my mom had saved along with a note thanking God for the joy her children had given her.  that one was particularly hard.

i rediscovered artwork i hadn’t seen since high school, and as i looked at it, people, places and circumstances that attended its creation bubbled back to the surface of my consciousness.   it was the catalyst for a thought: i’d “abandoned” lots of stuff at my mom’s over the years, but as long as my mom’s house remained my mom’s house, this was a place where my orphaned possessions could nevertheless “live”.  there was the gracious side-effect that i could come back periodically, reconnect with my roots, stir the pots of memories and let them simmer on the back burner of my mind.  and this i have done for the past 3 decades.

but this time it was different.  clearly most of this art work was too big to take back, and even if we could, there’d be no place in our home where we could absorb it.  and so the reality dawns that now is truly the time when the-fate-of-X is finally decided; sheep and goats, wheat and tares, good fish-bad fish.  i now must choose to never see some things again, to close the door to potential future reunions and intentionally relinquish chunks of my life into the arms of a different era.  sigh. 

the house is now empty; carpets have been ripped up; the spider webs are off the walls; the rusty old revolving clothes line has been officially put in the trash.  but a few things have survived the cut. 
among the things i brought back with me were some silver serving utensils, gifts to my parents for their 25th wedding anniversary from some now-forgotten, unrecoverable giver.

smudges, brown and black spots, an ugly film covering the entire surface, such that i could barely detect my own reflection on the back of the spoon.  not a very good likeness of me, but a fairly accurate picture of the way i sometimes reflect God:  a hazy, confused image on what should be a smooth, polished surface.

the tarnish may obscure the reflection, but interestingly it’s the presence of the tarnish that announces the identity of the underlying metal.  stainless steel maintains its luster… and is worth considerably less.  so naturally, when i paw thru the kitchen cabinets and come across the cutlery, it’s the dirty filmy “ugly” pieces ones i pick out to save because they are more valuable.

there are probably ways to keep silver from tarnishing…i think you can wrap it up in zip lock bags and keep it away from the air.  i suppose there may be value in suffocating your silverware if its primary purpose is for display.  but if it’s going to be used, it will get dirty.   just like us…when God puts us in contact with life, he runs the risk that we will come away smudged and dark and dingy.   fortunately tarnish can be polished off.  but it takes special cleaners.  and work.   and in my case, blood.  and sweat.  and tears.

i’m glad it can be removed, being the tarnish bearer that i am.  i know there will be a day when my luster will be restored like new…and it will be that way forever.

till that day the firm, mighty, and merciful hand of God will continue to scrub and polish me with the precious blood of Christ.