More in The Yellow Chair ChronEchols
By Candace Echols
Just before Christmas, we lost a dear family member. She was elderly and it wasn’t a complete shock, but when it comes to death, there’s always shock. Even when there’s not.
Right now we are all adults feeling so very much like children, trying to figure out what to do next. We are sitting amidst the things left behind and deciding what fits into our own lives, what fits into our children’s lives, and what we just can’t keep, no matter how much we’d like to. I can’t help but think something is terribly wrong when a fork or a bar of soap or of all things, Corningware, has outlasted a person. (Incidentally, I’m starting to think Corningware will outlast us all.)
I’m finding myself surprised at the things we are wanting to keep, like the spoon she fried potatoes with, an antique towel rack, and a child-sized broom. And sometimes, I’m shocked by what we are ok to leave behind.
But one life doesn’t always fit perfectly inside another. The connection between people and time and stuff and memories . . . it’s all a mystery.
Last week, right in the middle of everyone holding it together and making lists and texting pictures of side tables, I did something stupid.
If you’ve been through this, you know what it is. I saw some bunny plates that were cute – that’s all I can say about them – cute. I had never seen them before and had no emotional attachment to them. They were of zero value. They weren’t even a set. Some were chipped. The colors didn’t complement each other. They were nothing I cared about.
Except they were in another person’s pile of claimed items. I thought that I hadn’t been given the opportunity to place dibs before they were claimed. So, I wrote a text. It wasn’t overtly rude or snippy, but it wasn’t friendly either. It got the message across.
The bunny plates exposed an embarrassingly selfish spot deep inside me that I accidentally let show. (I know better than to let the ugly parts show—I am Southern after all—but this one slipped by me.) The worst part, it took overnight for me to even realize I had embarrassed myself! I willingly slept a whole night in that stanky selfishness.
Then I woke up. There was a text response:
“Oh, I just set those aside because I didn’t want them to be given away. I wanted someone in the family to have them. Why don’t we just split them? It’s not a big deal to me.”
Just like that, the rottenness of my own heart was laid bare in the bright and shining sun next to the right orientation of my sister-in-law’s heart (not even a sister, but an in-law. Bonus points for that). She kept things straight. She remembered: people over things. Even in the seemingly irresistible aura of cute bunny plates.
When you’ve done something dumb and someone returns grace for your foolishness, the beauty is breathtakingly stunning. Things like bunny plates – even ones with gold flakes or silver trim (these had neither) – pale in comparison with someone’s words of wisdom that say, “Hey, I’ve done dumb stuff too. It’s just a silly plate. You can have the ones you want. Let’s move on.”
While I’m glad we have the French Fry spoon and the towel rack, the most valuable thing floating around our family right now isn’t a bunny plate or a set of silver. Or a will. It’s the wisdom to intentionally apply grace as needed, even when it may hurt or cost something. There is a pleasantness, a peace, that sweetens the atmosphere no amount of inheritance could hold a candle to. I’m speaking from acute and very recent experience here.
So, I’ve decided. The only thing better than a family full of children who are able to play well together might be a family full of adults who can do the same thing.
And that takes wisdom.
StoryBoard features “The Yellow Chair ChronEchols” by writer Candace Echols. Candace recently published her first book, the children’s book Josephine and the Quarantine. Candace is a Midtown resident, wife, and mother of five. She has written for StoryBoard’s Page One Writing Workshops, and writes in quiet moments from her yellow chair.