A lot of people my age mutter about downsizing, about weeding out so their kids don’t have to do it later. I have thought about cleaning out and have done a little tidying in the closets and drawers myself. While I am not much interested in having the latest designs or owning the biggest house or impressing others with material possessions, I do hold onto the things I hold dear for their memories. There is no real way to pass on our memories or our life experiences to our children. Oh, we can tell them, but you know kids don’t really listen. They must make their own life, their own memories.
I have the top of my kitchen cabinets filled with special things. My grandmother’s McCoy tea pot, a Wizard of Oz tin toted back from California after a visit to see a dying uncle, the Cudahy lard can that calls up my salesman maternal Granddaddy and the Tom’s jar that brings my paternal Grandpa back to me with each glance above the stove.
Grandpa had a DX station when a filling station meant attendants to pump the gas and when coolers full of milk and beer could be found only at the grocery store. He had pumps in front and a shop to the side where he changed points and plugs, fixed tires, changed oil.
Inside the station office, everything was a little messy. Desk and chairs were slightly oily from his greasy hands, built like an outfielder’s glove, and the stained wipe rag that hung from the back pocket of his Key overalls. The black dial phone shined with dirt; the cigar box cash register in the top desk drawer was always closer to empty than not. When we showed up, he tried to always make time to sit in the oak chair on rollers for a minute or two, until the ding of a bell announced another car for him to check the oil, wash the windshield, test tire air pressure, and to pump full of gas at 29 cents a gallon.
The inside of the station also held a metal cooling box full of ice water where icy bottles of soda pop waited: Pepsi, Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper, Orange Crush, Grapette. On the wall shelves, near the transmission fluids with chesty girls on the label, rested three Tom’s jars. Oh, I loved those jars. When the lids came off, I could smell the treasures long before Grandpa handed them to me. There were small bags of salty peanuts in one, another held Double Bubble gum in a pink wad that had to be softened in your cheek before chewing, and the third stored sugar-coated red diamonds of sucking candy, the cinnamon so strong your eyes wept when the lid came off the jar.
It was a family crisis when Grandma and Grandpa had to move to the nursing home, a story of its own. The decision to empty the two story, cluttered house came fast with no warning. Family descended like turkey vultures after road kill. I was called and went to find pictures and items and memories being trashed faster than the jaws of industrial strength caterpillars. The station had long been closed, and I knew the Tom jars were somewhere in that old house. Finally in the early afternoon, under a layer of grease and disregard, I spied my jar. I wrapped my arms around it and took it to my car, locking it in the trunk.
A real McCoy!
The jar now sits on my cabinet top. I have another on the counter that I had bought long before I got my hands on Grandpa’s. I use it all the time, being unafraid to chip the lid or scratch the paint because up above rests the real McCoy! I know the provenance of that jar with the black letters, and on certain days I can still smell the cinnamon as the ring of the glass lid kissed the side of the jar when Grandpa handed me down a piece…I can hear his voice, see the curl of Black Irish hair peek out from his cap…and I know memories are priceless. A house can’t have too many of them hanging around.