June 19, 2018
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Attic memories bestow Christmas spirit

By Rosemary Herbert

Like so many people from Maine and elsewhere, I find myself having to look at holiday giving in a new light this year. There just isn’t the money to spend on keeping up the material generosity that marked my joy in Christmases past.

For an unabashed “Christmas person,” this financial fix seemed not just challenging but hugely disappointing. Until I decided to dig into my attic, that is.

Actually, the attic solution arrived serendipitously. In part because Rockland’s spiffy new Goodwill facility, with its extended hours and covered drive-up donation area, makes is so easy to give, I decided to make a foray into my all-too-filled attic to see if there was anything I did not need from which someone else could benefit.

The first box I opened proved that was the case. It contained windbreakers and rain gear that my daughters had long outgrown. The second box was not so fruitful. It contained notebooks from one daughter’s college chemistry class. I figured, a 50-50 score — half for Goodwill, half for the trash — was not bad. And a 100 percent score on getting things out of the attic could not be topped.

And so I soldiered on with the attic sorting. That’s when I came across two treasures in the form of a superb telescope and a humble, rattan, over-the-shoulder shopping basket. Both came with memories so vivid and formative that the discovery of each was rather heart-stopping.

The telescope, which is materially valuable, has such high resolution that one can use it to see the rings of Saturn and the craters on the moon. I know this because as a small girl I gazed through this very telescope with my grandfather, who had, I thought, almost magically positioned the thing to allow us to view these heavenly bodies.

When I moved to Maine, with its night skies so much clearer than the light-polluted skies of Massachusetts, I was sure I would scope out how to similarly aim this inherited telescope at heavenly spheres. Unfortunately, as they say, “real life intervened,” and pressures of work prevented me from ever attending one of the midcoast’s famed “star parties” where I was certain I’d meet someone who would teach me how to use my grandfather’s gift. As a result, the telescope languished in my attic.

Coming across the box that contains it today, it suddenly seemed absolutely obvious that the telescope really should be in the possession of my eldest daughter, a young woman who loves the outdoors and is undaunted by problems such as finding out where in the whole huge heavens a particular planet may be found.

That would have made my attic foray successful in itself, but it turned out I was in for discovering another joy: the shopping basket I bought during my first trip to Paris when I was 22 years old.

In those days, baskets like this, with long, woven shoulder straps, were used by the locals to carry fruits and vegetables and cheese home from the Parisian street markets. Seeing that basket in my attic morass, I keenly remembered how, wanting desperately to seem Parisian instead of looking like the American tourist I was, I skipped a meal in order to afford to purchase this basket.

Looking at this souvenir of my young womanhood, still in great shape after all these years, I slung the straps of it over my shoulder again with nothing short of joie de vivre. Feeling as though decades had dropped off of those shoulders, I wondered if I should keep it to make me feel young at odd moments for the rest of my life, or if I should give it to my youngest daughter, who I know will appreciate the story of its provenance, for Christmas.

In the end, it seems this is the year for giving — not simply material things, but gifts from the heart. And so both will be wrapped up with colorful paper and ribbons — and tagged with the happiest of memories. Sometimes it is just the time to pass along a treasure or two. After all, isn’t that what the true spirit of giving is all about?

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