I was rushing around trying to get the dishes done and in my haste broke Bill’s favorite glass. His favorite glass. It was free with a fill-up at a Shell gas station years ago. I ask you, how special is that? I wouldn’t have minded so much its taking up space in the cupboard if it did its job, had utilitarian value that justified its place in the household. This glass was embellished with a hand-painted American Bald Eagle, its wings spread with
great majesty. Bill had admonished me countless times for attempting to pour milk into it.
“Don’t use that glass,” he said, “get another one.”
“Why? What’s the matter with it?”
“Nothing. It’s my favorite, that’s all.”
“Why don’t you use it then?” I asked.
“I don’t want anything to happen to it.”
So what happens?
I break it because I used it when he wasn’t there.
Now it sits on the back of the sink, a discordant version of its former symmetrical self. I wait until after dinner, as we’re finishing the last of my homemade apple pie, to tell him.
“I have a confession…”
The bean bag frog that my son, Jeff, called “Freddy” is worn out after years of being tossed around by my sons, buried at the bottom of their toy box, or taken along as a guard-frog on road trips. Freddy’s waning years are spent close to me now, and he takes comfort in sitting on a rocking chair or reposing on a bookshelf in my upstairs office. Relishing the quiet life. I can’t imagine anyone wanting this ratty old green frog with three or four holes in the seams that I’ve sewn closed a zillion times. I don’t know why I keep it myself. Yet I can’t get rid of him.
There are two Star Trek mugs (I’m a big fan) in my kitchen cupboard as well as a cup I bought at King’s Island years and years ago that says “I Got Smashed by The Beast at King’s Island” (I’m crazy about rollercoasters, too). This cup is totally useless in every respect. If you drink anything but water out of it, it’s impossible to clean – yet I can’t get rid of it, either. I just can’t.
Kearsti’s first sippy cup is on that keep-forever shelf, too – and she’s 21 now. Why do I keep these things? It drives me crazy that I can’t just pitch them out and forget them. Then there’s Bill’s cup with the William and Mary Logo, testament to the four years he spent there getting his degree. Laura’s UCSB cup honors her MA in French, though it’s chipped. Want to guess why? Her Antioch cup, however, a stately blue and gold, represents the hard work she did in achieving her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing and remains in pristine condition, looking like new. Why aren’t they all marred with chips and cracks?
Because they mostly sit on the shelf. Unused. Just because.
We all have hangers-on just like these because somewhere there’s a memory of something that connects them to us. A memory, the specifics of which may have been lost, but whose essence lingers and clings and won’t let us let a particular thing go. Sometimes there’s a reason for our behavior that gets buried deeper with each passing year – and sometimes that reason lies in “just because.”
But what good is something if the memory that supports its place in our lives has been lost along the way? We don’t always know why we can’t let something go, but we know there’s a because in there somewhere that keeps us hanging on to it. Maybe it just reminds us of something else that was important, once upon a time. We think there isn’t a reason but maybe there is. Why else would we engage in this kind of hoarding? Get so attached to something so seemingly insignificant?
For every reason I’ve given for why I can’t let go of something, there are five more reasons for everything I’ve kept despite the lack of supportive context. Because I like the color, the shape, the way it sparkles in the sun. Because it’s a perfect fit here in this spot. Because it reminds me of something, though I can’t recall what just now.
Because it evokes a feeling I want to hang onto though I don’t know what it is exactly or why I’m feeling it.
Bill stands by the sink staring at what remains of his favorite glass, now in disparate fragments on the sink.
“I’m sorry about the glass” – a peace offering, though it feels so lame, even if it does fit the crime. I ask why this glass meant so much to him and he tells me he liked it.
“I know, but why?”
“I just did.” Maybe it was a manifestation of his patriotic bent.
That’s the way it is for so many things we like or love, even things we hate. We don’t have reasons that explain why, reasons that get to the core of that why and answer that question with specifics. There isn’t a reason for everything.
Some things just are. Just because.