Saturday, April 24, 2010

Goodbye, Mary Margaret McBride

I've come to the realization that things are not memories.

I've been decluttering and unpacking boxes which are in my infamous "box room" aka den. I moved back to this house more than a year ago, and since there is no garage, all the boxes have been stored in what used to be my den. I unpacked everything I need to live long ago, yet there are lots of boxes in the room which makes it unusable for anything but box storage and a hiding place for my cats. Mind you, the amount of boxed "stuff" stored here is probably about a quarter of what was stored in the garage of doom in Richmond Hill, so I've made huge strides.

In the last few weeks, I've unpacked about 8 really big boxes and have filled three for the church yard sale. I've thrown away a lot and recycled a lot and kept a little bit. I've started this process from the "other" side of the room, because I'm looking for a couple of specific things and the boxes nearer to the entry have all been opened already. That's part of the problem - the opened and half-empty boxes. If I can put the boxes in some kind of order, I can deal with them better, but right now, its all pretty overwhelming - the mess, the opened boxes, the lack of labels ...

My goal is to open and survey every box, immediately remove the items that I know I do not want any longer, and then repack and re-order the boxes so that I can make some judgements later on. I think if I do this, I will half the amount of crap in my box room, making it a usable den with some boxes again. I'll have to ask my organizational guru, Michele, if she thinks this will work.

Today I opened a box of cookbooks, and at the bottom was the huge, well worn and well loved Encyclopedia of Cooking by Mary Margaret McBride. Immediately after WWII, when my mother was a new bride, she and her mother grocery shopped together every week, and every week, my grandmother would buy another chapter of this tome - one for her and one for my mother. This cookbook was quite the exhaustive reference for its day - it had everything from how to can, pluck a chicken and make an eggroll, to napkin folding and all kinds of ethnic food. With this cookbook, Grammie and Mom cooked many an adventurous ethnic meal - in particular, the chinese meal complete with egg rolls is still talked about in our family.

Mom took her volume of Mary Margaret McBride to the Inn and earned quite a reputation for what we billed as "continental cuisine" in 1950 and 1960 Sunapee, NH - not quite the chic cosmopolitan capital of NH, its true, but still....

Mary Margaret is held together with duct tape. Her pages are worn and stained. The plastic lamination of the cover is dry, brittle and flaking off. It weighs more than 10 lbs. I will never use it, but as I held it in my hands, I hesitated to get rid of it. I tried to remember the last time my mother actually pulled it out and used it, and I can't. She carried that book from Everett to Medford, to Everett, to Sunapee, to California and finally, to Savannah. It has had a home in a bedroom, a couple of apartments, a motor home for 15 years and several houses. Its been in my cookbook bookcase for almost 13 years, and not once in those 13 years has it been used. Yet, I'm struggling with whether to keep it or not.

So, I did what I always do - I got a second opinion. In the end, everything that is mine will one day be my only child's, so I asked her if she wanted me to keep it for sentimental reasons, and she doesn't. She doesn't remember it propped open while my mother cooked. She doesn't remember two heads bent over it, laughing and planning their next culinary adventure, one head under 5 feet and silver and the other thick and black. These are my memories, not hers. Her text to me said, "I don't want it. You can get rid of it. It's ok." And with that "It's ok" I decided to throw it in the trash - but not before taking a quick picture of it so I can remember it.

It feels like another goodbye to my mother, but really, its goodbye Mary Margaret McBride. I guess I'm growing up. Farewell.


Sarah said...

I am visiting your blog for the first time since Great Lent. In our journey into orthodoxy, we have decided that it's time to begin midweek fasting, so I am back to get recipes, and enjoy the posts.

My sister-in-law just sent me a link to a picture of my nephew, the son of my little brother who died several years ago. He is so like my brother, and she wanted to see if I saw the similarities as she did. It brought tears to my eyes, as always, but sweet tears. He is my living scrapbook of my brother, better than any object I could keep in my closet or on a shelf. It is hard to let go of the things that remind me of my brother, or my mom, or grandmother, but your post reminds me that the things are not nearly so significant as what lies behind them. Thank you!

Karen Palmer said...

enjoying your blog for the first time. "Goodbye Mary Margaret McBride" is a very good article that demonstrates "things are not memories." The article is sound advice for people struggling with retaining too many momentos over time. The account of your process for deciding to keep or eliminate an item, that once gave you great pleasure, was informative. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

This is DD, the fabled daughter, speaking.

I came home for the holidays to see MMM still on the kitchen counter. I laughed.

Some things will never change.

missingbecheery said...

Yada yada yada, Elisabeth. I got it out of the trash when I first wrote this post because Kisa said she wouldn't mind having it, but I never got around to mailing it off. I finally decided last Monday 1/3/11, to put it in the recycling, and it is gone now. It took me that long to realize that I was never going to mail that huge, heavy thing to anyone. So there!

Elizabeth said...

I have a really hard time getting rid of "things." As the only child of an only child of an only daughter, I have been the repository of 3 generations of "stuff" that was entrusted to me. I already have a magpie mentality, and packrat tendencies, so it makes it doubly hard for me to throw things away. Your post got me to thinking about all my cookbooks - over 300 of them! I've GOT to toss some of them away! But, but, but there are so many MEMORIES involved! So I've decided to do what you did - take photos of them! What a great idea! Thanks!

Linda Adair said...

Sometimes one person's trash is indeed another's treasure. This book is selling from $129.00 to $375.00 on various sites for rare books. I've been trying to find one to scan to a .pdf version. Last one I just looked at wants $270.00, too rich for me!