I can remember being four or five years old and standing before the massive picture window at my grandmother's house as the morning sun streamed in. The sill began where my chin ended, and I often rested my head and elbows on it so I could gaze long moments at the multitude of colors created by the array of knick-knacks set out on the shelves Papa, my grandfather, had erected there. Red, carnival glass goblets cast their fiery passion across the room. Blue Venetian glass slippers dazzled like Cinderella shoes. Topaz yellow, blown-glass canaries perched quietly near pale green, glass salt cellars. Baby blue, cut glass match holders caught the sunlight like prisms, and cast little rainbows all about the room when the sun came in at the right angle. All the while the creeping vines of house plants wove their way about the twinkling treasures that mesmerized my young eyes.
Breakfast was always a cheery time at my grandparents' Texas house. Not only because we children were on vacation, but also because there were fresh-picked blackberries to put on the cereal during those summer months when we came to visit. Here we would break our fast in a dining room with the marvelous window that sparkled like a carnival at night. Here we would laugh out loud with Papa over the funnies from the newspaper that he would read to us. Here we would bask in the love that Grandmama demonstrated with lavish hugs and praise, as lavish as the rich colors of her wonderful window.
No chest of treasure could have been more precious than these pieces of glass my grandmother had collected throughout her life and displayed in the window of my childhood memory. When the sorrowful time came for my widowed grandmother to sell her home and move to a nursing home, she asked for us grandchildren to go through her earthly possessions and take what we wanted. These beautiful knick-knacks were the only things of hers I wanted to keep.
The carnival glass candle holder rests in my morning window sill which occasionally catches the light, but never as spectacularly as the window in my grandmother's house. The yellow canary sits on a shelf in my yellow bathroom, chirping a silent song in the Florida humidity. The blue, Venetian glass slipper stands on my mantle, and the light blue glass match holder holds an array of local fossils on my desk. The salt cellars sit on my counter top near my spice rack.
I don't know what it is that makes me cling to these old things. I find that the older I get the more important childhood memories become. I guess that is why so many people hang on to their "junque." Each item has importance in some distant time and place that we return to when the going gets rough--a time and place where we were safe and responsibility-free. Suddenly, the red color of a goblet reminds us of a simpler time. Suddenly, the Cinderella slippers of our youth return to us the magic that once existed for us. Grandparents live again when we see glass canaries, and laughter fills our heart when we read the morning funny papers in the morning sunshine. We cling to these seemingly valueless pieces of stuff because just-picked blackberries are possible again in our minds, at least. That is why we clutter our lives with so much seemingly worthless stuff--so that we can remember the parts of life that make it so valuable.