notquiteold

Nancy Roman

The Things I Love

Years ago, when I was just starting my working career, I rented a tiny apartment from a very nice older couple.

These folks, Mr. and Mrs. Manchester,  were really old. I mean, they must have been the age that my husband and I are now. But of course, that made them very old indeed to me at the time.

They had a lovely old house with a detached two-car garage in their backyard. Years before, the husband had built a studio apartment over the garage for his own mother, where she had lived for many years. After she passed away, the apartment stayed empty for quite some time, and eventually, they decided to rent it out.

They rented it completely furnished with all the old woman’s things – which was perfect for a young person like me who had nothing. There were furniture, pots and pans and dishes, a vacuum cleaner and an ironing board and iron (I love to iron, by the way… I really do.) The tiny kitchen had a two burner stove and a bar-sized refrigerator. But that was perfect for me, since I ate mostly canned ravioli and hotdogs.

I had a very-low paying but promising job that had taken me eighteen months to find. As an English major, my office skills were sparse, but I knew the alphabet. I could file and type. And the small nonprofit I worked for did not have a big staff, so they were happy to get someone with good brains, who’d work for peanuts. And it wasn’t long before they encouraged me to acquire some business skills – by paying my tuition for an MBA.

In the meantime though, I had plenty of nothin’ and was happy to have a pot for my ravioli and an iron, even if it meant I had to wash my hair in the old claw foot tub.

And my landlords were generous and kind and smart. They left me veggies from their garden in the summer and cleaned the snow and ice off my car in the winter.

I often stayed for a cup of tea with the missus when I stopped by on the first of the month to pay my rent.

Their house wasn’t fancy but it had a warm well-used kitchen, good furniture (including a baby grand piano) and some interesting art in all the rooms.

One day over tea, I notice some beautiful plates on display in the dining room.

“Those are really lovely,” I said.

Mrs. Manchester aid, “Thank you. They are very old family heirlooms. They are precious to me.” She added, “Do you see that the one on the right has been broken and glued back together?”

“I see that now,” I said.

“My grandchildren broke that piece three years ago. Knocked it off the wall.”

“What a shame.”

She laughed. “If my own kids had done it I would have strangled them. But when it’s your grandchildren, you say, ‘Oh, that’s okay, sweethearts.’ And you get out the glue.”

“I guess so,” I answered doubtfully.

“I thought my heart would break,” she said. “But it didn’t.”

Years later, I surprised myself by becoming rather a business success. I eventually got myself a beautiful condo and lovely expensive furniture, including some antiques. I acquired fine dishes and crystal and a few good pieces of art.

Of course, I had to clean the snow off my car myself, so there’s that.

Also eventually, my adorable sister had a bunch of adorable kids, and my nephews and niece became an important, loving part of my world.

Mostly I visited – and babysat – at their place, which was childproofed in every inch of every room, of course.

My place was a bit more fragile.

But I loved having the family over. When I wasn’t working like a maniac of course… which was most of the time.

So there’s that.

And one day when my family had come to visit, the kids were playing in my spare bedroom and there was considerable noise emanating from that direction.

My brother-in-law frowned. He said, “I worry about all your beautiful things when we come here. Sometimes I think we shouldn’t visit until the kids are out of college.”

And I thought of Mrs. Manchester and laughed – like she laughed when she told me the story of her family heirlooms.

“Oh no!” I said. “You – and the kids – can come anytime. You are always welcome here.”

“But what if they break something precious?” he asked.

“Don’t get me wrong,” I said. “I love my things. I really do. But you know… my things don’t love me back.”

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My heirlooms. Only one set loves me back.

 

 

 

31 Comments

  1. When I was in my early 40s, I bought a beautiful old stone home. I furnished it room by room. Each item whether new or refurnished was selected with love. My niece came to visit with her kids. The youngest dumped butter on suede dining room chair covers. I remember it vividly because I worked hard not to show any emotion. At the end of the day the cushion could be redone but the fun with those kids could not be replaced.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, it’s hard sometimes to remember that, so I admire your restraint!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As my mother used to say, “It’s just stuff. It can be replaced. Your children [or, in this case, your sister’s children] can’t.”

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    • Exactly. Returned love is better than any old antique.

      Like

  3. Sweet story sure makes a good point!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Mitigating Chaos and commented:
    I put together a really neat story for tonight, but then I found “The Things I Love” and the wisdom of Mrs. Manchester.

    My story can wait.

    Thank you, Nancy . . . and Mrs. Manchester.

    Like

    • You’re welcome, Ray. Thanks for the re-blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful and well told.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So true, things are just things, but children are more precious.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I had a long response written and poked the wrong button and lost it. I have to learn not to cry over lost words just as my dear mother-in-Law (the Mrs. Manchester in my life) taught me not to cry over spilled milk or broken treasures. Aren’t we blessed to have had such wonderful role models in our lives?

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    • Yes. Mrs. Manchester (and her husband too) came into my life at the perfect time. They helped me transition to adulthood… give me guidance but respecting my freedom. And teaching me about priorities.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. “My things dont love me back,” as a mother of 2 kids under 3, I really love that statement. Hopefully I’ll be able to always remember it. Thanks so much for your beautiful story. Love from Indonesia.

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    • Thank you for your kind words. I do believe that it is okay to love your “things” – we just need to understand their place in your life.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a beautiful post! I love the way you say “my things don’t love me back”.
    Oh and I also enjoy ironing (thought I was the only one)!

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    • I always like ironing! Take something messy and make it beautiful and smooth. Very soothing.

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  10. ‘Things don’t love you back’. So very true Nancy. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Nice post and so very true!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Loved everything about this ~ I could “see” your garage apartment, “hear” you visiting with Mrs. Manchester … and imagine him sweeping snow and ice off your car. You took me right there. Wonderful lesson about what really truly matters. Well done!! MJ

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks MJ. I remember Mr. Manchester – when we had a record blizzard – plowed our whole street with his little snowblower to make sure I could get home. And then shoveled the snow of the roof of the garage to keep me safe.Such loving people.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Oh that we all had someone like them in our lives, right? 🙂 MJ

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  13. When my younger daughter (now grown) was about nine, she and the dog were running wild through the house and knocked over a large ceramic lamp (that was part of a pair). I put the dog outside while the child crouched in a corner, terrified. I sat down on the floor beside her, put my arm around her and said, “Nothing I can say to you will make you feel worse than you already do.” I don’t know if she remembers that, but I hope so.

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    • I’m sure she remembers. And I found that it is good advice in the workplace. I once made a huge mistake, and felt so bad, the boss didn’t even yell at me. He said “I haven’t got the heart to yell – you feel so bad already.” I remembered that the whole rest of my career. Take responsibility for your mistakes…. AND show your remorse. It really helps.

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  14. Patricia Mitchell Lapidus

    Love this one, too, Nancy. I once gave a toddler grandson a plastic cup that was my shaker and had a special tight top. I figured he would hold it and find something to put in it and be entertained until we could find something more suitable. But within two seconds he had waggled the sides and cracked the cup in three places. I said, Now we both know what you can do with a cup. Here, let’s put it in the trash. I didn’t waste a moment in regret. A grandson can love you back in plenty. He did and he still does.

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    • Kids break things. You love them anyway. That’s the rule!

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  15. Patricia Mitchell Lapidus

    By the way, I read your novel Lucinda’s Solution. It captivated me. I enjoy historical novels and I love how this one shows the reader the life of those times and yet transcends the times, as some do in every generation. It’s brave book and well-crafted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you liked it, Patricia. If you are so inclined, I hope you will consider leaving a review on Amazon. Reviews help so much – not only for readers, but Amazon also considers reviews when promoting books. And I loved writing that book. That era captivates me.

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  16. Nice furniture is lovely but happy children and much nicer in my opinion, when Kathy took up with Michael he was surprised that we allowed the grandchildren to have food on the lounge

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  17. Thats such a great reminiscence, Nancy, and so true.

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  18. chrissyswritingcorner

    Love the post! Enjoyed the read!

    Like

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