What are you saving it for, the Maypole Dance?
By Alice, a/k/a Lutheran Liar
One time long ago when I was young and single and living here in New York City, I was just sitting down to dinner, blissfully alone in my fifth-floor walkup on 93rd Street.
My buzzer rang, and, since I had no doorman, I stuck my head out the window to check out who was down there. Seeing as how it was a friend and not some Mad Killer Rapist, I put my key in a sock and threw it out the window so he could let himself in the street door and come on up.
A couple of minutes later I welcome him in and I offer him a glass of wine. Whereupon he looks past me to my little glass-topped “dining” table, upon which there is arrayed a placemat, a neatly-folded cloth napkin, a pretty china plate, an equally pretty wineglass, and says (panting; it was five very steep flights up), “Oh. Sorry. Are you expecting company?”
When I explained that, no, I wasn’t expecting anyone else, and yes, my dinner “company” was just me, and that yes, I did in fact do this sort of thing every night — every night I wasn’t out, that is — he looked baffled. “All this -- just for you?”
Sure, I said. Why not? Who better to enjoy my nice things than, well, me?
This story came to mind because there’s been a lot of buzz lately about simplifying your life. Mainly by getting rid of things. Purging one’s possessions, as it were. I don’t know if Marie Kondo actually started it all — there have no doubt been what the New York Times called in a recent article “gurus of tidiness” since the days ladies cluttered their caves with way too many pretty rocks — but apparently this simplification trend is growing. Bookstores and the internet and even TV are getting cluttered with de-cluttering mavens.
Now, actually, I do enjoy a good possessions purge myself. Lately I’ve been offloading clothes, offering first dibs to my twenty-something daughter. Oddly enough, the things I think she’ll want (those paisley Theory pants!) are usually not the things she takes. So no, this is not an anti-Kondo diatribe. I am a huge advocate of purging and possessions simplification. I love getting rid of those things that, as KonMarie would say, do not “spark joy.”
But if I do keep something? Heck, I go ahead and use it. That crystal wine glass or cashmere sweater or engraved stationery can’t do much joy-sparking if it’s sitting in a drawer or a cabinet waiting for a special occasion. That special occasion is now.
Case in point: after my husband’s mother died, we found a stash of stationery–-boxes of beautiful engraved note cards and envelopes that she had never even opened, much less used. And now that she was gone, there was no one who would be getting any joy out of it – not even her daughters. It was monogrammed. And, though one of them had her petite stature and the other had her sense of humor, neither of them had her initials.
On the other hand, I have a good friend who wears the pearls that belonged to her much-loved, recently departed mother every single day. These valuable “real” pearls, actual heirlooms that another sort of woman would store in a vault. But no, my friend wears them. And no, she is not a fancy New York City socialite. She is a landscaper and garden designer out on Long Island. And she wears those pearls with her tee shirts, work pants and boots, goldarnit.
Now my own personal Mom is not the pearl-wearing or pearl-leaving kind, unless you count pearls of wisdom. Which brings me to “What are you saving it for, the Maypole Dance?” Which was a saying she’d deploy when she’d notice someone (like her own mother) saving something for good instead of using it. (A “Maypole Dance” was, apparently, a Very Special Occasion back in the day.) When was this “special occasion” supposed to arrive, she’d ask? Next week? A year from now?
I remember in particular a mink hat my Gramma Peterson was “saving for good.” It was too nice”, she said, even for church.
“Too good for God?” my Mom asked.
Gramma wore it.
So, in closing, let me urge you, a la the gurus of “tidiness”, to go ahead and lose those things thatdon’t “spark joy”. But if you’re not going to lose it, then by all means use it. Eat your Chinese takeout on your best china. Wear the Burberry cashmere sweater while streaming Big Little Lies, Season 2 on your couch. Oh, and do break out that monogrammed stationery – even if you just use it to jot down your list of things you want to purge.
Alice Henry Whitmore is a writer and a keen observer of human nature, skills she honed while working on Madison Avenue for many years. Now that she is retired from the advertising business, she focuses her attention on her weekly humor blog, lutheranliar.com. Her pieces comment on situations and experiences that Lustre readers share.