Give It Up

Eicher Sisters 1972

Eicher Sisters 1972

In this picture, I am the smallest one, holding on to something in my left hand. It’s a scrap of paper that I wouldn’t let go of, so the photographer must have conceded and allowed me to keep it as he took the family photos. I’m not sure anyone in my family even remembers this, or notices it in the long-forgotten picture, but I think of this every time I look at it and then for many days afterward. I see a stubbornness in that little face of mine and wonder how many times my parents tried to get that paper from my hand before they finally gave up.

I can think of other examples in my young life that exemplify this characteristic trait of mine: holding on too tightly to my favorite blanket, which I finally threw in the garbage when it was ragged and in tatters, my favorite stuffed animal (which I kept until I reached the age of 35 when I finally buried it with my dear dog Zeb). My life has been one long lesson in letting things go because it seems so difficult for me. Maybe it’s difficult for everyone and they just don’t talk about it much.

Lately, I’ve had trouble letting go of stress and one thing that has brought me relief is slowly unloading the things I own by giving them away to people who will love them and use them. When my niece announced her engagement and showed us her engagement ring, I asked her if she would like to have the ring I inherited from my mom (her grandma) because it appeared to match nicely. It is a platinum band with diamonds running across it. She said yes! I didn’t think anything more about it for the past year. I felt happy because 1. my niece will have something of her grandma’s and 2. my mom’s ring would be treasured and worn every day.

Yesterday when I visited my sister, she asked me, “Do you know that ring you gave Emma is worth a lot of money?” My sister then told me she asked Emma to give the ring to her (as a joke). I explained that I really did like the ring a lot and that it is the only ring of our mom’s that I can wear since I’m allergic to gold so if Emma didn’t want it, I wouldn’t mind having it back because I wore it once in a while. Emma and her mom had taken it to be sized at the jeweler, who explained the value of the ring as he looked at it. The diamonds are big, the platinum is valuable; he said it is worth $35,000.

No wonder my sister wanted it. And I couldn’t help but immediately think of the relief my bank account would experience with that much security during this insecure time in my life. I drove home crying, which is what my sister said my niece did when she heard the value of the ring. It may be what my dad does when he finds out how much the ring is worth because I’m sure he could have used the money too. It took me all night to come to an agreement with myself about this whole experience.

I am so happy that Emma gets to wear this treasure from my mom, who believed that buying jewelry was a way of investing. We have politely scoffed at her for this after her death because she really knew how to take care of herself in this way–she spared no expense when it came to jewelry and clothing and this often caused extreme pain in her family relationships. My dad may have sold this ring, had he known how much it is worth. I may have sold it to make my monthly payments for living. My sister may have sold it too. Now that it is a permanent part of Emma’s life, it will not be sold and it is truly an inheritance from our mom, passed down a generation (after her death). I feel like letting go of this ring was the best thing to do (but I’m still dreaming of all the things I could pay for with the money).

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Nothing To Lose

According to Oscar Ogg in his book, The 26 Letters (to which” an entire chapter has been added” since its original publication in 1948), Z comes at the end of our alphabet because the Romans realized they couldn’t get along without it. In the Greek alphabet, Z had been in sixth place and at first the Romans got rid of it altogether. But when they missed it so much and added it back to their alphabet, the best they could do was tack Z on at the end. And that’s where it stayed, which is better than not having a Z at all. Think of all the zippers left wide open, the zebras left standing in their field.

Perhaps we can understand then, the great sense of loss each business owner of a small Midwestern town felt when awakened one morning to find the Rs missing from all the reader boards in town. “Get elief f om the heat with ou  ai  conditione s and heat pumps?” declared the sign at the local hardware/variety store. ” odeo bu ge  fo only $1,” the deluxe lighted Burger King sign shouted emphatically, unaware of its senseless babble. As one business owner drove through town after finding his own 18th letter missing from each word, he began to realize the extent of the town’s loss. Obviously the first thing that must be done in an abduction case like this was to call the local constabulary. And that is what he did. “Like all good police forces,” he reported, “they were concerned and tried to find the culprit.” This didn’t take long, and before a 24-hour period had passed, all the local read board Rs were assembled on the large table in the center of the police station.

“These little letters were tricky to round up,” one policeman admitted, “mostly because they’re such thin letters. Rs aren’t real easy to spot.” Before local business owners were allowed to collect their Rs, they were asked to bring a sample of their alphabets to the station so that the police could be sure the letters were being returned to their rightful owners.

How tragic to think that one day, I might wake up, the modern casual speaking American that I am, only to find that all the Gs have been removed from print. “We’re not goin’ to need them in the future. We are just fine speakin’ without them,” someone might try to argue. And I would not be able to find a suitable argument because there would be no Gs to argue with. I wouldn’t even be able to disagree.

I think we have much to lose by not carefully attending our alphabet and treasuring each tall straight stick of certain letters and each rounded curve of others. We must teach our children the value and need for each letter in our historic collection. None should become dusty with mis-use or worn from dis-use. Nothing to lose? We have everything to lose, including our Rs. Then we have our Gs to consider. I urge you to watch your Ps and Qs with passion.