“…how to bid our dearest possessions adieu.”

gentleman-in-moscowFrom A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles:

‘Tis a funny thing, reflected the Count as he stood ready to abandon his suite. From the earliest age, we must learn to say good-bye to friends and family. We see our parents and siblings off at the station; we visit cousins, attend schools, join the regiment; we marry, or travel abroad. It is part of the human experience that we are constantly gripping a good fellow by the shoulders and wishing him well, taking comfort from the notion that we will hear word of him soon enough.

But experience is less likely to teach us how to bid our dearest possessions adieu. And if it were to? We wouldn’t welcome the education. For eventually, we come to hold our dearest possessions more closely than we hold our friends. We carry them from place to place, often at considerable expense and inconvenience; we dust and polish their surfaces and reprimand children for playing too roughly in their vicinity — all the while, allowing memories to invest them with greater and greater importance. This armoire, we are prone to recall, is the very one in which we hid as a boy; and it was these silver candelabra that lined our table on Christmas Eve; and it was with this handkerchief that she once dried her tears, et cetera, et cetera. until we imagine  that these carefully preserved possessions might give us genuine solace in the face of a lost companion.

But, of course, a thing is just a thing.

And so, slipping his sister’s scissors into his pocket, the Count looked once more at what heirlooms remained and then expunged them from his heartache forever.

2 thoughts on ““…how to bid our dearest possessions adieu.”

  1. Anne, I can relate. Burying both of my parents and now watching my in-laws rapid decline have resulted in my husband, siblings, and I emptying two parents’ homes of a lifetime of memories this year. Every decision is agonizing: Should I keep it? If I don’t, no one else will appreciate or cherish it. Because of our guilt over tossing aside family heirlooms, our house is crammed full of familial artifacts that won’t be revered after we’re gone. Maybe the author of this quote has hit the nail on the head: we replace our grief over dead loved ones with anything no matter how small or huge that inhabited the same space with them, in order to somehow stay connected. It’s all too much, somehow, and yet I can’t bear to give away the Hoosier cabinet, the replica icebox, the countless pieces of jewelry and scarves, the rarely used china. Somehow it seems disloyal or disrespectful to discard things that our dads lovingly built by hand or our mother’s favorite pin. What to do? Maybe when my grief isn’t so fresh I can begin to let go, but for now these items bring me comfort.

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