When I moved to Oregon from Massachusetts about 10 years ago, a few years after my wife died, I only brought a few items with sentimental value. Everything I brought was packed in the trunk of my car which I drove the 3000 miles from the Boston area to Portland. I packed some small things we’d collected over our 40 years of marriage. One meaningful item I brought was the cookie jar shown below in our old kitchen.
I’d been using the jar to keep Keurig coffee cups next to my coffee maker.
Some years ago I broke the little mouse off the top and using messy Gorilla Glue fastened it back. As you can see in my primary illustration it looked ugly, but it was firmly reattached.
Yesterday I had the top setting near the edge of the counter and was using it to hold something upright which I was taking a photo of. That slipped and pushed it onto the floor. It was shattered beyond repair. I know, it is just a “thing” but still I found myself feeling a welling up of tears. It was an unexpected reminder of my loss. It just didn’t occur to me I might be able to replace this for several hours.
Then I thought, what the hell, take a chance and look up cat and mouse cookie jars online and found several new ones for sale but not the one I had.
Then I had the “brilliant” idea of looking on the bottom of the cookie jar with the hopes it would give me the name of the manufacturer:
Not only did it give the name of the manufacturer but it had the name of the jar, Fat-Cat. I did a Google search and came up with this and managed to order the only one I could find.
It was being sold by someone who found it at an estate sale and listed it for sale on Poshmark.
My first reaction when I found and ordered this was a sense of joy mixed with sadness as I’d already been telling myself that perhaps this was a life lesson about learning not to invest too much meaning in an object even if it has great sentimental value.
Then, on reflection, I realized how normal this is when it comes to grieving the death of someone you love. I think most people do this. Therefore, the the moral of this story could be not to invest too much meaning in an object that is breakable, and if you do, be very careful with how you handle it.
You can’t bring a person back after they’ve died. Your memories are the real treasure. But as humans who among members of the animal kingdom we may be the only creatures that invest meaning in things, in objects, associated with those memories.
We’ve all read stories about people who lost absolutely everything they owned in a flood or fire, and in the most tragic incidents, even lost loved ones. Those of us who have actual objects in which we invest meaning and memories compared to them are actually lucky that we have what we have.
I think people fall along a continuum as far as how much meaning, how much sentimental value, they attach to objects that remind them of loved ones who may have died or other memories of important times in their lives. Where do you think you are on this scale?
WHY DO WE ASSOCIATE MEMORIES WITH OBJECTS?
The psychology of sentimental items
The pictures speak for themselves — the mouse has a new home.
The mouse joins the Westie figurines here.
Everything in these photos I brought from home including the large painting which I had to remove from the frame to lay on the bottom of the trunk of my car and have reframed when I got here.
The replacement came in good shape: