2017-11-29 / Editorials

Don Lively

A WHOLE LOT OF NOTHING

(Reprinted from 2010)

I was getting dressed and needed an unbiased opinion, so I consulted one of the bevy of female relatives I rely on for such advice.

“How would this tie look with this shirt?” I asked.

“Like monkey butt. Why do you even have a tie like that? This is the twenty-first century.”

I just smiled and wore the outdated tie anyway.

It's part of my stuff.

Stuff is different from possessions.

I possess a house full of furniture and appliances. I have a few implements that make country life a little easier. I have my toys including my ATV, SUV and flat screen TV.

I also have all sorts of pictures and drawings and handicrafts made by my kids when they were young. Those aren’t stuff. Those are treasures.

My stuff is made up of things that would mean absolutely nothing to anybody else.

On the kitchen windowsill of my house there’s a little pile from the homeland of my ancients, Scotland. There’s a small clam shell that I found on the coast of the North Sea at a cold, blustery dusk. There's a jagged piece of dark gray rock that I picked up hiking in the Central Highlands. Also in that grouping of useless items is a nearly white, round stone that I took out of Loch Ness the day I saw Nessie.

I still proudly display a souvenir bottle of Coca Cola commemorating the last National Football Championship that my Bulldogs won. Uncle Hayward gave it to me a long time ago. I was at that game. Good thing too cause Lord only knows when it might happen again in my lifetime.

One year I took my kids into the Rockies to explore an old ghost town. Most of the settlement had been reclaimed by the mountains but there was still plenty of evidence of the bustling mining town that had once stood among the aspens and Ponderosa pines. I told the kids that I was going to find at least one treasure before we left. They scattered out and began collecting old tin cans and broken bottles, not exactly what I was searching for. After a while I spied it. A rusty, but otherwise well preserved old skeleton key, nearly buried in the old mud street. My imagination went wild, and, of course, I made up all kinds of tales about what secret places the key might have locked and unlocked when the town was still alive.

I still have that key.

In the drawer of my writing desk I keep a letter opener. Why in the age of faxes and emails would I need one of those you might ask. On this particular item there’s an engraving of a naked little boy urinating into a pool. It’s a replica of a famous statue in Belgium. Daddy sent it to Grandma when he was "over there” fighting, I suspect with a little devilishness in mind. It must have seemed nearly pornographic to my staid grandmother’s eyes in 1945. Still, Grandma kept it. Now it’s mine.

There are other things that I’ve kept that I wish never needed to exist.

A glass tube filled with concrete dust and debris that I collected at Ground Zero in 2001 that reminds me to never forget one hellish day.

A letter from Mama telling me that our farm, our homeplace, was no longer ours. It belonged to the creditors now, along with the dreams and lifeblood of hundreds of other farmers caught up in the farm crisis of the eighties.

A King Kamehameha statuette carved from acacia koa wood that I bought in Hawaii on our tenth anniversary. We had a ball but we didn’t have a twentieth.

Bittersweet.

Then there’s my old college ID showing a young fellow with an auburn Afro the size of a beach ball.

And my first police department ID showing that same kid but with a much shorter haircut. It was taken the day I started the Academy, when I still thought I could save the world singlehandedly from criminals and other miscreants.

I have old buckeyes.

Shiny black Apache tears.

A baggie full of metal surgical screws and rods that were used at various times to put me back together.

Roadmaps from many of the 50 states.

A Bahamian five dollar bill.

None of it worth a bent dime.

And that homely old tie.

I borrowed it from Daddy the day I wore it to his funeral.

It'll stay right there in my closet.

Junk perhaps, but my junk.

My memories.

My stuff.

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of two books of Southern Humor, Howlin' At The Dixie Moon, and, South O' Yonder. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com.

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