Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Let's Talk About Stuff

I know it looks like I can't make a plan and stick to it since, despite my promise to write more regularly, it has been so long since I last posted. This time, it really is not my fault. Sometimes the circumstances of life intervene and the plans and ideals that we strive to live by just aren't what is happening. So it has been the last few weeks.

Weber, Erin, And I travelled to the coast of Delaware to visit with my dad (and many, many other friends and relatives - including my 92 year old grandmother.) Lewes, Delaware is a big shift from Dallas or even Sanger, Texas. It is a small beach resort town on the coast of our nation's first state. During the summer months it is overrun by sun worshippers who will inevitably put the next generation of dermatologist's children through post graduate school at the most expensive institutions of higher learning. For now however, they are doing their part to keep the local economy of this small town "green" - economically, not ecologically.

I have been visiting Lewes for my entire life. My grandparents lived there, first in a cottage on the beach and then in a 1760's house that they restored. It is filled with antiques, family photographs, and momentos of stories that span many generations. Until his death in the mid nineties, my grandfather lived here. A few years after that, my parents moved into the "family homestead." With the exception of an addition that Mom and Dad added, nothing much has changed here since my first memories, which date back to the mid sixties. The furniture is the same; the lighting is the same; even the smells (good ones) are the same. Despite all this familiarity, I didn't much like making the obligatory trips to Lewes when I was a teenager. To my adolescent mind, there was nothing to do. Being sympathetic to the adolescent with whom I now live, I had decided that we would make this trek back east while she was otherwise engaged so I could spare her that sense of boredom that I knew she would find within our first 24 hours. Erin is a better person than I was at her age. She insisted on going with us.

Two days into our visit, as we were strolling down the quaint downtown streets headed toward one of the local museums, I got a phone call from Offspring No. 1, who was in Chicago finishing summer school, saying that her apartment had been robbed. Her computer and other electronics were taken as well as similar items belonging to her roommates. Though the computer had to be replaced immediately (because no one can live without a computer these days), the bigger issue was the feeling of being violated. In the long run, the stuff was just stuff, I told her

I was forced to live by my own words the next evening when Offspring No.2, who had borrowed my computer to help alleviate the adolescent boredom that I spoke of earlier, came downstairs and announced, "I broke your computer." "Do you mean it crashed?", I said. "No, I mean I broke it. The screen is cracked." When I asked the obvious next question about how this happened, I got the obvious teen aged answer, "I don't know. I put it down and when I went to use it, it was broken." I deliberated briefly about the best response - anger or tears. Ultimately I decided to take a deep breath, say very little, remember those words "stuff is just stuff", and ask Weber to go upstairs to survey the damage.

Through some frugal web shopping and friends in low places who happen to be handy with screwdrivers, my computer is now fixed and I am back in business. However, it was this little episode that interrupted my promise to make (almost) regular blog posts.

I had just about recovered from all of the bad encounters with electronics of the past few days when Offspring No. 2 tripped and dropped her iPhone shattering its screen and this rendering it useless. Oh yeah. Did I mention she was walking and playing games when this happened? It's just stuff! It is just stuff! It is just stuff! FYI - There is no App to miraculously reconstruct the shattered touch creen of an iPhone. This problem would not have been so urgent if we were all heading back to Dallas together. Unfortunately, we were putting Erin on a plane to Chicago to spend a few days with her sister. The mother in me couldn't let her go by herself with no means of communication. We headed for the AT&T store to replace the phone. This was as much for me as it was for her.

Lesson: Stuff is just stuff.
Corrolary: Stuff costs money. Sometimes it costs lots of money.

During our visit, my dad mentioned that he wasn't sure how much longer he would stay in the house. It is a lot of house and a lot of yard for one person to care for. As I looked around, all I could think was that there is a lot of stuff in this house! Suddenly my mantra of its just stuff came back to haunt me.

When is stuff just stuff and when is it not?