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The Calming Effect Of Keepsakes

My 2-year-old granddaughter Isabella drags around an 8-inch stuffed dog named Mollie, which is never out of her sight. Mollie has been to the zoo, the fair, the movies, a number of restaurants, and many stores. She’s been left behind, stained, painted, and sewn back together. An eye has been replaced and a smile sewn back on after the original stitchery gave up. 

There have been attempts to replace Mollie with a newer, less “scurvy-ridden” stand-in, but to no avail. The response is always the same. “I want my Mollie.” When Mollie gets a ride in the washing machine, Izzy reminds us every 10 minutes, “I think my Mollie is done now.” When she learns that Mollie still has a half hour to go, she tries another tack. “I think my Mollie’s afraid in there and wants to see me.” 

Once in a while, Mollie gets lost, and the response is equal to an AMBER Alert. Phone calls go out, a Medivac is dispatched, and a SWAT team is called in. When the missing Mollie is finally located, a broadcast email is sent to all family members with the order to “stand down.”

We all shake our heads, roll our eyes, and smile as the Mollie saga plays on, but secretly none of us want to see it end. There is an innocence and purity about Izzy and Mollie that transcends time. We all have a few Mollies in our lives. We just get better at hiding them when we are older.

Family Ties

When I gave our son Nicco his first haircut, my wife Cindy put his hair in a plastic bag and kept it in her dresser drawer. Now and then, as time goes by, that little packet gets buried by rotated laundry, etc. She tears through that drawer to find the keepsake. She wants her Mollie.

Along with the boy’s hair, Cindy has the weirdest set of Mollie-like keepsakes one can imagine. Although she has rings and jewelry and photos and imported dolls that have been handed down, her collection includes:

  • Thread-thin linen towels from Italy
  • A copper coffee scooper that belonged to her grandmother
  • A pair of her grandfather’s bifocals (which she attempts to wear every now and then: “These things are still too strong”).
  • Her father’s passport.

All are more precious than gold to her.

A Sentimental Snapshot

When my son Sam was a few years old, he was a real Christmas kid. When he watched the holiday specials or saw the tinsel and lights being hung, he just beamed. There was a display at one of the malls where a kid could stick his head through an opening and become part of an animated Christmas picture, and a photo would be taken. In the picture, Sam is in Santa’s arms, and the smile on his face captures every bit of his childhood innocence and abandon. Besides 8x10 and 5x7 photos, a 2-inch square sticker with the picture on it was given out. The photos are tucked away in some album somewhere, but the sticker has been on the inside mirror of almost every car I’ve owned since that day. When the last car was totaled in an accident, I went to the junkyard to retrieve the sticker. It’s now taped to my keychain so I don’t risk losing it again. Very few things make me smile as quickly as that picture. It’s my Mollie.

Sweeping Nostalgia

I went to my mother’s house a few weeks ago to trim some bushes, and when I finished raking up the remains, I went to the garage and swept the rest with an ancient, threadbare broom that for some reason had a faded red ribbon tied at the base. “Hey, Ma,” I said, “next time I go to the hardware store I’ll pick you up a new broom. This thing is shot.” She walked over and pulled the tool out of my hand. “Don’t you dare!” she scolded. “What’s the matter with you?” I asked. “You bought me this when you were in fourth grade. Remember you put that red bow on it? See?” I hadn’t remembered but clearly she had. It seems the broom’s name must be Mollie.

Keep Them Close

I know a widower at work who keeps a pair of his wife’s slippers by the couch in the living room. Evidently she had a habit of leaving them there, and although it’s been 5 years since her passing, he still keeps them in that spot. My aunt has one of my uncle’s jackets still hanging on a hook by the back door. It was the one he put on to do yard work or run garbage to the waste can on cold winter nights. I sense she finds some comfort in that. He’s been gone 15 years.

Some people use words as a keepsake. They call out to a dead spouse or parent when they reach a point where they need to make a decision or feel overwhelmed. My grandfather used to say, “Well, Pauline, here we go again.” He outlived her by 12 years and talked to her audibly all the time. If he thought “talking” to heror “consulting” her had value, who were we to tell him it wasn’t so? It seemed to keep him on an even keel, so what was the harm? He’s entitled to his Mollies, too.

No Explanation Needed

In my office hangs a framed poster from the movie Serpico. It was given to me by a theater owner who ran older movies in a little Bijou on Main Street in Bowling Green, Ohio. When I was in college there, I used to pass the theater as I walked to work (waiting tables and tending bar). My beard and hair were much longer then, and when he saw me pass the ticket booth, he’d tease me, “Aren’t you going to sign autographs after I show your movie?” He thought I looked identical to the Serpico character on the poster. One day after the movie had closed and another feature was being run, I walked past the booth and a rolled-up paper popped out of the ticket-taking window. “Here you go, kid,” the guy smiled, “send your picture home to your mother.” It was the poster from the movie that had hung in the window for months. From that day forward, that picture hung in my dorm, in my apartment, in the cottage I lived in after college, and then, when I bought my first house, it started to fall apart. I had it repaired and framed, and it hangs in my office today. It reminds me of a simpler, less-complicated time in my life. It’s a milestone of a period where I had yet to figure much out and was still searching. It’s a link to my personal history where things that are important to me don’t have to be explained, and I’m quite sure I’ll have it hanging in my home long after I retire. It’s Izzy’s Mollie, mom’s broom, Cindy’s linen towels, and my keepsake. A privilege well understood by other hopeless romantics.

Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a B.S. in Business from Bowling Green State University and an M.B.A from Baldwin Wallace University. He has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at ron@northstarpubs.com.    

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