On Material Things

She hadn’t bought me nail polish for years. Perhaps since I was a little girl. But I had been pitting cherries for her jam all afternoon and my nails looked awful. Certainly not nice enough for church that evening. She was running a few errands before, anyway, and I asked her to get me a nice, neutral color. She brought home two. A pale, almost translucent pink, and a shimmery mauve.

It was the last nail polish she ever got me, and I think of her whenever I wear them.

The last pair of earrings she bought me have a similarly mundane story to accompany them. A store in town was going out of business. We were shopping the clearance. When we were ready to check out, we found ourselves at the jewelry counter. The saleslady said she couldn’t ring us up unless we made a jewelry purchase. So we quickly perused the few remaining items in the case. A smokey blue pair of square glass bead earrings were the nicest ones there. I think they were a dollar. We picked those.

And I think of her whenever I wear those, too.

There are many things that remind me of Momma. Everything from certain flowers at the grocery store to the funny smell of spray paint when it’s cold outside. But it’s these “last things,” lately, that have stuck in my mind, that have lingered with me. These odd things that have little significance on their own.

The thing about things is this: none of them have much significance on their own. But give them a context, give them a story, and they have new weight, new meaning. A history, a future–grant these and things suddenly become Things. The fan she carried at her wedding. The earrings my daughter might wear at hers. The butter knife from the great-grandparents’ farmhouse kitchen.


We can’t take these material things with after we die. We can’t hold on to passing things. But here, now, in this world, they point us to our fellow sojourners. And they point us to eternity.


  1. Elizabeth wrote:

    So poignant. My grandmother is still very much alive, but has begun the process of handing down Things, especially as we plan our move. I insist on having her tell the story of the Things on video, which seems a little ridiculous to her, but I treasure the memory of her voice already.

    • renidemus wrote:

      That is so wonderful! My mom had her mother do that for a few of the things in her house one Christmas. She took her around and asked her about things while my dad recorded. Not sure where that video is now, but I’m sure we have it somewhere. Safe 🙂 Such a treasure..

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