If you’ve ever had to clean out someone’s home, particularly an old person, you will encounter many strange things that have you wondering why that person hoarded what they did. I had a friend who cleaned out her mother’s house after she died and found cupboard after cupboard crammed with plastic bags, far more than any human being could possibly use in a lifetime. But, you see, that mother grew up in the Depression where you Just Did Not Waste Anything that might possibly, remotely be useful somewhere down the line. Once she’d started collecting those bags, I’d wager, she just kept saving them because that was What She Did. She may not even have remembered herself what her original motivation was, she just kept doing it, even after the stashing of them became somewhat oppressive.

Some things are a little less daffy than cupboards filled with plastic bags, but still make no sense to those tasked with the massive and exhausting clean up.

I had a Rosebud moment yesterday morning. Those of you who are classic film fans may get that reference but if you haven’t seen Citizen Kane I won’t spoil it by explaining. My personal moment came when I looked into the room where I’ve stored a lot of stuff and saw a broken three-legged stool.

When they come to clean out my house when I’m dead or in a home somewhere they will look at that stool and say, “Why the hell did she hold on to this?” Or maybe not. There will be a lot of those moments when they clean out my house so by the time they get to that stool they may be too exhausted to care and just chuck it onto the bonfire.

But, you see, I couldn’t throw that stool away. I used to sit on it when I was small while I listened to my father tell stories. He was a great storyteller. Some of this tales about his personal adventures were even true. It didn’t matter if they were literally true or only emotionally true. They were good stories and I loved listening to them.

So that stool stays and becomes just another piece of mysterious bric-a-brac from an old person’s life to be wondered at and tossed away. It is a thing of memory, mine and no one else’s, and I can’t possibly hope they will understand or care when I am gone. Memory makes things precious beyond all thought of logic.

I have, however, tried to strip my house free of most of those saved plastic bags. (But I’ll bet there’s a stash of them hiding somewhere that even I don’t know about.)