Yesterday, I threw away a sheet – an old, white, cotton, flat sheet.
I got the sheet from my mother, who I believe got it from my grandmother. Unlike Grandma, Mom preferred poly-blend sheets that went from dryer to bed – and certainly preferred fitted bottom sheets to my grandmother’s old-fashioned double flat sheet system!
Being the daughter and granddaughter I was raised to be, I remember the history of this sheet because it is like the history of so much that I have at one time owned: when one of us dies or moves or runs out of a use for something, it simply gets passed to the next available person. I’ve inherited cast iron frying pans, a quilt, a 5-generations old table, ladies’ handkerchiefs, crystal & dishes, a foldable drying rack, doilies, laundry baskets, jewelry… and sheets.
I’m afraid I have passed this tradition along. When Tony and I moved from a big parsonage to a small apartment, my children heard so often they probably cringed, “Could you use….” Grandma’s tiny wicker bottomed chairs went to live at my daughter’s home; her aluminum Christmas tree (shedding 1960’s foil in its wake) went to my son’s. But I’ve also thrown away my fair share of the worn out hand-me-downs.
So yesterday, it was the sheet’s turn. I gathered it up in my arms, headed to the trash can, and suddenly got hit with a memory – sight and sound and smell all at once!
I was a very small child again, hanging around my mother in the small room off her bedroom where the mangle lived. The windows were open and sunshine poured in with the fresh air. Mom was feeding damp wrinkled white cotton sheets into one side and, with the scent of hot steam, out the other side came dry, perfectly smooth, flowing folds of hot fabric!
I doubt I’ll forget the mangle magic without that sheet – but it’s memories we save in the odd bits of the past we hang on to. And if I “mangle” the moment a little (I’m sure for Mom it was less magic and more hard work!), that’s okay too. The problem comes in clinging too tightly to those bits – wrapping ourselves in old sheets as if they were the salvation of the next generation!
You know where I’m headed here, right? For families, for churches – it’s all the same. Enjoy the memories and inheritances, but know when you are hanging on to something that’s outlived its usefulness… know when something needs to be thrown out so something better can take it’s place!