One man’s trash is another man’s entire childhood.
When I was little, we had these amber-colored dessert glasses. Like little glass bowls with stems. They were heavy. Well, maybe they weren’t. Everything is heavy when you’re eight years old.
I remember my mom would make my sister and me chocolate pudding. This was back when instant pudding wasn’t a thing so she would have to boil everything up, put it in the glasses, and cover them with plastic wrap.
We’d wait not-so-patiently for the pudding to solidify. You knew it was ready when it got that weird film layer on top. I have no idea why it was so gratifying, but you always had to scrape off that layer and eat it first. It’s weird. I get it.
One day I was walking through Goodwill and there they were. Five of those amber-colored dessert glasses.
I picked one up and held it, rubbing my fingers over the hard glass bumps on the side. I laughed quietly to myself. I was holding part of my childhood.
I could picture the kitchen table we had when I was a kid with the wallpaper with the small blue flowers in the kitchen. I could see my mom standing by the sink, washing dishes, with a hand towel draped over her shoulder.
These are things I never would have thought about and images that never would have come to my mind if someone hadn’t cleaned out someone else’s house, packed up the dishes, brought them to Goodwill.
I rarely feel compelled to buy anything when I find little memories. Except for Pyrex. Pyrex is the link to both my mother and my grandmother. If I had a bigger kitchen, you can bet I would have an entire cabinet filled with nothing but old Pyrex. It gives me that much joy.
I didn’t buy the dessert glasses that day. Getting to see them, touch them, and have a flood of memories hit me was enough. I have dozens of other memories to encounter. Now, I make trips to Goodwill just to visit my past. Who knows what I’ll find.
It’s made me think differently about what we do with the things that we no longer want. I’m not one to hold onto much. I have embraced the joy of tidying up even though I said I wouldn't.
The hard part for me is that I derive a lot of simple pleasure in small things. If I bought and kept every single thing that sparked joy for me, I’d be a hoarder. I’m not compulsive, I’m just happy.
I like to think of donating our stuff to Goodwill as rehoming our memories. We look around our homes and determine that we have gotten all the mileage we need out of that set of gas station glasses our parents collected in 1982 and passed on to us when we moved out on our own for the first time and needed glasses. Those glasses that have lived in every house we’ve lived in.
We may not need them anymore but that’s not to say that someone else doesn’t.
That silly pint glass with the Charlie Brown cartoon on it is someone’s childhood. I like to think that if we took those glasses to Goodwill, they will find their way to the person that needs to see them.
When we had to put my grandma in memory care, my parents and I had to sort through her things and decide what would be kept and what would not. We gave nearly everything away.
I kept her Coke soda glasses. The same ones she would use to make me an egg cream every time I went to her house as a kid. They’re still in my cabinet even though I have not once used them since I placed them there nine years ago.
My grandma passed away two months ago. I’m keeping one of those glasses and rehoming the others. It’s time. The memory is too burned into my mind to ever lose it. One glass is enough.
I hope in a few months someone is standing in Goodwill, smiling, remembering their own grandmother. I wish that for them.
So, next time you’re cleaning out your house or your mom’s house or your uncle’s house, don’t throw anything away. Send the things off to be rehomed. Someone needs to hold them or own them.
Someone lost a loved one. Someone had a picture hanging in their childhood home. We all deserve to be reunited with our own memories, even if for just a moment.