The Things We Save, The Things We Give Away

Since I just spent the last several months sorting through my own lifetime accumulation of “stuff” in order to get my house ready for sale, it was only fitting that I volunteered to chair the auction and raffle at the Scottish Deerhound Club of America’s annual National Specialty show, held in Richland, Washington last week. After my fall, winter, spring and summer cleaning, I had plenty that I myself could donate, so why not go on vacation just to have the opportunity to sort through someone else’s stuff?  After all, I’ve gotten good at it.  My intrepid road trip companion and auction co-chair Rachel and I rented an SUV a week ago Monday in order to haul the deerhound related treasures 1300 miles, set them beautifully arranged on a table, label and describe them enticingly just so they could, in short order, become part of another deerhounder’s collection of stuff.  George Carlin famously said, “A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.” This time I vowed that I was NOT getting more stuff.

But while we were there…well, the stuff just kept on coming.  Prior to the event, I had fretted because my email entreaties to bring donations for the auction and raffle went largely unanswered, but apparently not unheeded.  The knocks on our hotel room door started as we were unpacking our own suitcases, and the donors came indeed, bearing gifts of cardboard boxes filled to the brim.  By Wednesday evening we could have built a cardboard city, although a bonfire might have been more appropriate.  There were treasures there which were hard to resist—an 1883 edition of William Scrope’s Deerstalking in the Scottish Highlands—clearly a necessary reference book for my life in Southern California, and a handmade deerhound topped casserole dish, oven safe and dishwasher proof, for my imaginary culinary creations.  Some of the items were brand new—a brocade collar fit for the Royal Dog of Scotland, and some were a little more than gently used, with a fluffy patina of dog hair and dust.   We slowly worked our way to the bottom of each box, sorting as we went, until we got to the last one, where I found two old picture frames, face down, and picked them up.

The dog in the picture looks at me, head slightly cocked, ears askew.  His eyes are brown, and questioning. His coat is clean, and not matted, and his head is covered in the soft hair called for by our standard.  He is in a cheap frame, as is his companion, in a matching frame.  Why are they here, buried in the bottom of a cardboard box? I imagine they are dead, and that the photographs are now too painful to look at because they remind the owner of times past, happier times, and I burst into tears.  I hope that I am wrong, that the person who brought these to my room in a cardboard box was just tidying up—that he or she had scanned the photos into his computer as “wallpaper” and had no need for the actual photographs anymore.  But that is not what those pictures said to me.  I put them back in the box.

Bring me your old leashes, your dirty collars, your worn T shirts and sweatshirts.  We will recycle them for the next generation to carry on the “long grey line.” Bring me your antique bronzes lovingly crafted by the Animaliers of France and England in the 19th century, and your tales of stalking the red stag over the heather and the drink of Scotch from the quaich at the end of the hunt.  Bring me your handcrafted jewelry adorned with Celtic knots of silver and gold, and your art work and your crafts.  But please, don’t bring me pictures of your own dogs, buried and perhaps painfully remembered, perhaps forgotten.  Keep them, and the memories you have of them running through the fields, healthy and young again.

We turned in the SUV at the Portland airport, and flew home.  The auction was a huge success, and we came home to our families and dogs—the only things that really truly matter.

Empty Nest

My sister was here recently to help me out while my father was in the hospital.  She is much kinder and more patient than I am, so I was very grateful for her help. She is leaving to go home to New Jersey tomorrow.   Tonight before dinner we took the deerhounds for a walk.  In my better days, I could walk four at a time.  Last weekend, I tried three on three leashes and it did not work out too well.  They spotted a man they did not know walking up our street.  Perhaps they found him threatening.   With three hundred pounds of dog lunging and barking, it took all my strength to maintain control.  It turned out to be a very short walk.  Today, my little sister took Magic, who outweighs her by at least 20 pounds, while I took the two Q’s, Queen and Quicksilver.  We had a pleasant time.

As we ended our walk this evening by coming through the back gate, near the barn, Norman the Lipizzaner stuck his head out the stall door and nickered softly.  I said to my sister, “Let’s go visit the horses before we cook dinner.”  Into the barn we went, where the two old geldings called to us with some degree of impatience.  We loaded their mangers with Purina Equine Senior and horse treats and prepared to close up.  As we walked by the closed door of the tack room, I stopped.  I said to my sister, “Do you want to see the saddest thing?”  She looked at me, her eyes questioning, then said yes.

I pulled open the door to the tack room.  In that room there were five closed tack trunks, each stamped with the initials of a family member.  Saddles were cleaned and covered and neatly perched on their racks, ranging in size from a small child’s Western saddle with full Quarter Horse bars, to my husband’s beautiful dressage saddle.  Blankets were washed and wrapped in plastic.  Shipping wraps were bleached white and stacked in place.  Bridles were oiled and ready and bits were gleaming and polished.  But there was no one home—just old framed photographs on the walls.  I said to my sister, “Enjoy your children while you may.  This room is the ghost of childhood past.”

I hope that my children appreciate and look back with fond memories on the years when we would saddle up and ride out together.  It was a special time to me.  Lucky and Harmony and Veronica are gone now, but Dash and Norman and the memories remain.  To me, it was time and love and money well spent, and I hope that my kids, now grown, feel the same.