Author Archives: Donna Copson

Living in the Moment

Ray and I have been greatly occupied by our transition to a new home and the sale of our current one. We have sold a condo, bought a townhouse, and listed the house on the Bluff. If you have been following us for a while  you know that all this has required getting rid of, or at least making discerning decisions regarding, the Stuff.

Three months ago we were brought to our senses with the early arrival of a new grandson. We got the word just as we were packing the car to return north. We did an abrupt 180 and headed south to be with our daughter, son-in-law and his family as we focused all our hopes and prayers on the well-being of this little guy. Happy to say that he is doing well.

Still, it was a lesson in what matters. In this case, we are reassured that our decision to move closer to family sooner rather than later has been the right one. We will be able to enjoy more of our grandchildren’s milestones and accomplishments firsthand. Our older grandson is graduating from high school and will be off to college. Happily for us, he will be near our younger daughter and not a continent away. His younger sister is two years behind him and active in Ultimate Frisbee, basketball and theater. Both were involved in their high school play, either in a starring role or technical lighting support. How fortunate that we could be there to witness their amazing achievements.

Which brings me back to the little guy. He and his parents stayed at our house a couple weeks ago so the family could all see the play together, all except for me and the little guy. (I saw the play earlier — twice.)  I got my first chance to babysit for him.  Just the two of us for an evening that ran over-long. His parents’ apologies were laughable. Little guy and I had a very good night.

Now, I have just returned from five days with him and his parents. His mom is easing back into the workaday professional world. While she worked from home, I was on-duty for the six hours she worked remotely each day. Such a week I had.

I am embarrassed by their gratitude. I did them small favors in return for a very selfish week of soaking up this wonderful creature. As I drove home I realized that I had been given the gift of being in the moment the greater part of each day with him. News reports, email and Facebook were relegated to the very beginnings and ends of the days. I got enough information to know what was going on but could focus mainly on family relationships and his development.

For all my reading over the years about living in the moment, this was the real thing. Nothing else had a claim on me. Happiness.

 

Finale: The Books

It has been a good while since we talked about our book dilemma. The Wine and Cheese/Book Takeaway was a great success. Prior to this we had donated boxes/bags of books to the local library for its Friends sale. Still, we were left with the remains of a near lifetime of buying/reading/ absorbing/harboring  texts that have been important to us. Add to these volumes a good number of books that had been passed down from the previous generation.

As luck would have it (I can’t believe that I am using this phrase, but it’s true), our hairdresser Maureen, who has been with us for the long term, told me that she knew of a book dealer – a son-in-law of a client – who deals in books. After placing a call to said person, we were introduced to a most charming young man who has a passion for books in a way far greater than ours, I concede. Tom thoughtfully looked over the remaining books, gave us a quick take on the overall situation, and agreed to work through them.

Tom came by to report on his assessment this week. It turns out that we had a good number of books that were in limited supply on-line and some that were of particular interest. He is glad to take our entire collection, the least and the most of it, and make it part of his inventory. Based on this assessment, he gave us a check which we feel represents the potential value of the books, his risk for any that are not of real value, the cost of retaining them, and, most important, the value of his time and expertise.

It has been a long process of detachment and release, but we are experiencing a sense of relief and also satisfaction. The books have gone to people who will read them or pass them on to others who seek them. We realized some monetary gain, but that was not the point. After all, we left the “sale” to the end. No, it’s just knowing that we have completed this phase of our transition.

Friend Bonnie, who took some of our offerings for herself and her son, asked me recently what we kept. Looking over the shelves and reflecting on what we have boxed up, I find that we have saved many classics (Greek, Roman and others), my medieval history books and related novels, background books for Ray’s historical novel Benediction, and many children’s books that I can not relinquish because of their association with our daughters’ youth and my time volunteering at a local elementary school after retiring. Ray kept his collection of books on FDR and the North African campaign of 1942-1943, thinking he still might write something — possibly a novel — on that era. Add in a good number of favorite novels and writers, and that about sums it up.

Regarding children’s literature, I would say that there is a great deal of pleasure in it for adults, particularly if you can share the books with young ones – your own or others. As for all the Shakespeare that we let go, we concluded that we can easily get his works from the local library. Besides, so many of them were yellowing paperbacks.

That pretty much wraps it up for the books. Now we need only resist the compulsion to hold on to the next reads.

It’s Getting Real

Wonder where we’ve been? We’ve been getting our house in the Finger Lakes ready to go on the market in just a few days.

The cupboard is bare. Now how am I going to clean underneath the darn thing?

You’ve been reading about our downsizing and our efforts to get rid of “the stuff.”  We’ve appreciated your interest, your encouragement and your concern. These last few weeks it has been getting real. While we thought that we were going at it in a concerted effort, we have heard that our realtor thinks that we need to accelerate the pace.

We are on-board. This despite the early arrival of our grandson and the need to divert our time to be with him and his parents. We are smitten and will be adjusting all our plans to make the most of the opportunities to be with the family and the new guy.

Our attentions back home have turned to making the house ready to show. More stuff has gone out the door. We have connected with a local book dealer who is looking over the remains of our wine and cheese and book takeaway. He has loaded them into his van and will get back to us with an estimate. No more boxes of books to contend with. (As an aside, we were amazed and gratified to receive a note from the local history center that two of our neighbors have sent a contribution in

Ladies — he does windows!

appreciation for our giveaway. What could be more satisfying? Thanks, friends.)

We are doing “triage” on the remaining items. There are things designated for the local antiques dealer’s perusal; others for the church’s yard sale this year; more for our cherished Once Again Shoppe; practical items for the Living Well which offers services to local families in need: and, our castoff clothing and costuming to the local theater company which encountered an incredible loss with the floods two years ago.

We’ve had the place spruced up a bit with a few cracks addressed, paint freshened where needed and small matters seen to. It remains for us to address the other

Wide open spaces in the basement. Room for a pony.

stuff and to decide how we present our home.

A good bit of our furnishings have gone south to our new home in Virginia. Nonetheless, we still have a very habitable home here. The challenge is to decide what we keep for the new home and how we transition down there. It is not insurmountable, but it does keep our minds occupied.

And, by the way, the basement – that great repository of generations of family stuff – is looking pretty spiffy.

We are convinced that this was the right time to make the change. It has been a huge effort, one that we’re not sure we would want to undertake — or be able to undertake — a few years from now.

 

The Books – Getting There

img_2120It’s no secret that we are hoarders of books, as we have come clean about this in our posts over the last two years. It is also known that we are fast approaching countdown, the time when we have to decide what to let go of and what to take with us to the down-sized townhouse.  To this end, we have been going over the books cached away around the house: the study, the basement, the “bonus room,” even the piles on the bedside tables.

In recent weeks, we have taken books that were subjects of our church study group to the church library. Ray has found a home for history books at the local history center, and I have given a number of children’s books (along with art supplies) to the local ARC, which supports children and adults with developmental disabilities. These placements seem right.  But, what about the remainder?

We are in debt to wonderful friend Becky who years ago shared with us her approach to leaving a home.  Friends were invited to visit and take away an item. No bringing of hostess gifts; the requirement was that guests help with the process of saying good-bye.

Thanks to Becky’s sharing, we have invited friends for wine and cheese and a “books takeaway.”  Doing this will allow us to see many friends whom we have not had a chance to enjoy properly, what with our goings and returns these past many months. A second boon is the pleasure we will have in passing along books that we have treasured enough to carry them with us for many years. Knowing that they will go to good homes, I am inclined to take a more critical look at the books that I think I must keep and those that I can let go of, knowing that they may be chosen in the same way that I did originally.

Speaking with friend Libby today, we talked about passing along/divesting ourselves of the stuff of our lives. We touched on real linens and family silver, among other things. For the most part, the next generations do not want them. We agreed that the rummage sale was the place for them, especially as the proceeds would benefit a worthy cause. Still, I find that books are another matter.

Another friend, Jeanie, shared in an exchange which I cannot locate easily but the substance of which I can render. Speaking of books and letting go of them, she replied, “Some of my best friends are characters I have met in books.” That about sums it up. I guess I’ll keep the best friends.

We’ll let you know how we do with the “takeaway.”

 

What We Call Progress

We are plugging away at the stuff.  Having undertaken the family archives and sent some documents on their way to historical institutions, universities and libraries, we are more and more confronting the books. What to do with these companions that we have read, savored and held onto over the years?

Well, for my part, much of the problem was hoarding. I’ve read about it and experienced it first hand in others. I just can’t seem to let go of something that gave pleasure.  Another part of the problem is that I fool myself that I will return to read them once again. Well,  I am at that point of life when there is not sufficient time to re-read all of them and still read the other books on my life list. I think I’m finally growing up here.

We are becoming more  critical, more discerning regarding those tomes that we want to retain and will actually read or reference again. We have agreed that the paperback Shakespeare plays can go. We can borrow them from the library should need arise or Google particular questions that we might have. We will keep our hardback copies of the ancient classics. They speak to us still.

Then there are the books that have been formative in our thinking. Those we will keep for sure. What are some of them, you might ask? Well, here’s a sample.

The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt

1491 by Charles C. Mann

Machiavelli, A Portrait by Christopher S. Celenza

Ornament of the World by Maria Rosa Menocal

Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick

Lincoln at Gettysburg by Garry Wills

Growing Up by Russell Baker

Dante by Barbara Reynolds

Someone quotable once opined that you can tell much about a man [person] by the books he/she keeps. Draw your own conclusions.

So, (a word that linguists and folks of their ilk voted to retire a year ago) what are we left with (oops, a dangling preposition?) Right, and now where does the question mark go? Yikes!

We’ll tell you more shortly.

 

 

 

More Things Under Heaven and on Earth…

Ray has been sharing his trip down memory lane as he goes through his family memorabilia. See his post.  While he has taken laudable action to preserve his father’s papers and other items related to Pop’s career at TVA, the matter of the snippet of his grandmother’s wedding gown is now looming large.

I hesitate to tell him that he doesn’t know yet what trouble with wedding gowns is. I am going through other Copson family items. Lo and behold, we have his mother’s wedding gown in its entirety. Mame, while average for her time, would be called diminutive today. Not many brides could wear it, even for nostalgic reasons. Well, our daughters could because, while they are much taller, they are also as slim as they come. But, we have married them off.

If that isn’t enough, I have my mother’s ball gown from a weekend at West Point in the 1930’s. It’s somewhat the worse for wear – not her wearing, but my sister’s and mine. Mom let us dress up in her old gowns when we were young. I’m afraid that we were not as respectful of them as we should have been.  Along with the current white cotton sheath with a flounced skirt below the knees, I vividly remember the white satin slinky  gown with the faux diamond clip at the shoulder strap and the slim green crinkly gown with an aura of mystery about it.

Some thoughts come to mind. We could donate them to the local theater company which has taken some of our funkier items for their wardrobe. On the other hand, perhaps the local history center would like them for its collection of period clothing. The wedding gown was worn in 1932, and is a classic. And I don’t know anyone among my acquaintances who went to a West Point weekend with a cadet.

I’ll pursue these avenues, with Ray’s permission of course. Who knows, maybe we’ll drag these pieces with us to our next stop. Let the girls agonize when the time comes. Serve them right for all the stuff they have left behind in their time.

 

 

 

 

 

Things Change

We have taken another step towards what we always suspected was the eventual place to which we would return. That being largely done, I have turned my thoughts daily to those things that will change for us.

Some of them are very great. I will save those for later. And, some are very small, very mundane. They occur to me in the course of an ordinary day, a day that is largely like any other that I have experienced here on the Bluff. Yet, they are in their very small ways profound. They provide a real contrast between that which we left behind nine years ago, that which we have lived here in the interim, and that to which we return.

Here is the first of many. I’ll try not to burden you with all of them. Perhaps I’ll reduce them to a list at some point. Okay, here goes.

Composting. In our  previous home we, i.e., Ray, raked leaves every fall many times over. They were deposited in a leaf compost pile behind the house. They were oak leaves, and they were like shoe leather. It took years for them to decompose. Still, it was the right thing to do. We did not put them in plastic yard bags and send them to the dump.  The kitchen waste went down the disposal. All gone.

Coming to the Bluff, we had no garbage disposal. It would have been a strain on our septic field. Moreover, we have 17.9 acres of land. It was not long before we bought the cage that became the compost pile. We have deposited yard and kitchen waste there for years. I am amazed that so much organic matter piled into that cage decomposes into such a small amount of soil. No matter, Ray has dug it out and used it in the vegetable garden.

Meanwhile, back in the burbs, we would go to our condo with its scary Badger disposal. I was bemused that I would prep a meal and turn around to look for the compost pail – a fixture on our counter on the Bluff.  What to do with all this marvelous organic matter? Well, I did what I had learned to do over those many years before: put it in the disposal. Still, it seemed awkward to us.

Now we return to the burbs. I have to acclimate myself to the former ways. Since we live in a covenanted community, we are subject to the prevailing rules: no prospect of a compost pile in our yard.

We’ll be fine. But, I will cherish the years when we were able to turn what we bought and raised for food into nutrients for the next generation of plants. Perhaps I can slip some of the larger deposits into our daughter’s compost pile down the road. Her family has raised their composting to an environmental commitment.