It’s About The Stories

Ginny and Julie. Circa 1980.

Our lives exist in a series of stories. Stories. Memories. It’s the collection of those stories that we present to the world as who we are. I love the stories. They surround me with love and life-lessons, filling my days and changing my moments. I love the idea that we are constantly creating our own story to share. Stories. Memories…

Many years ago, four hundred miles away from where I lived at the time, two boys did something foolish that would change my life forever. After years of dealing with what they did, I’ve learned to see how they were unintentional teachers. Painful lessons, yes. But good ones. I’m honestly grateful.

Mozelle Austin, my “Granny”, lived in a small, Texas town. It’s where my mother grew up and where I spent Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and many weeks in the hot Summer months. She was a wonderful woman. Strong in her faith and tender with her love, a most beautiful soul. She owned Mozelle’s Grocery, the only place in town to get a cold beverage, a Mrs. Baird’s fried pie, play a game of dominoes, and get your mail.

I have wonderful memories of the sound of my bare feet running across that hardwood floor. I spent hours eating gum balls and playing with her cash register. On cooler days, she would turn off the air conditioner and let the breeze blow through the screen doors. People would stop by to get mail and visit with my grandmother – mostly locals and tired, thirsty men from the nearby cotton gin. Even then, I sensed the magic of the place.

Fast forward to my teenage years. Granny retired then not long after, passed away from heart failure during surgery. Unable to part with the building, my mother and her siblings used the old store for storage. Treasures within a treasure itself. As I moved into my twenties, I needed a place to store the things I loved but did not use. Things saved for “someday”. Clothes, dolls, furniture, books, my Father’s rocking chair from his childhood…

Enter my unintentional teachers. I don’t know why they did it. I don’t want to know. I have some guesses but they don’t matter. The bottom line is that they set fire to Mozelle’s Grocery. That plain, small town structure had no value to them and in one night, they destroyed the building and our belongings. The left behind a grotesque pile of charred objects and ash. Nothing survived. The boys weren’t harmed at all.

I felt angry and hurt and sad. All those things I meant to pass on to others, just gone. The children in my life will never get to sit in my father’s rocking chair or play games on my little bamboo table. No one one will ever see the Easter dresses my grandmother made for me or my baby blanket that my mother made for me.

The biggest lesson I learned was that it was just stuff. It’s stuff I don’t have to process, or hang on to, or get rid of. In one night, the decision about what to do with most of my childhood things was made for me. A huge weight lifted from my shoulders.

On days when my possessions feel overwhelming, I am sincerely relieved that I do not have to deal with those things now. I’m pretty much buried in my current collection of stuff so that would have been even more stuff to wrestle with emotionally and physically. I can’t get it back.

On other days, I get a little sad when I think about some of those items. My father died when I was fifteen. The situation with his will and my step-mother was “complicated”. I have so few of his things to keep with me along my journey.

But if my limited experience with minimalism has taught me anything, it’s that it’s not about the stuff. It’s about me and my memories. My stories of Granny, and my dad. It’s about who they were that I carry with me and choose to make a part of who I am. It was never about the store or the rocking chair.

So I send out a “Thank You” to those two boys. You helped me to let go when I might not have been able to. I needed the push. I hope that you have full lives that you lack for nothing. May your hearts be full of love and joy. For you have blessed me in my quest for simplicity…

As always, thank you dear reader. I’m grateful for your time.

(In the picture above, that’s me on the left and my cousin Julie on the right. We are sitting at my bamboo table and that is my father’s rocking chair in the front near Julie. Memories. Stories…)