Driving Franny to school yesterday, I asked her what was more important to her: people or things.
“Hmmm…” she scrunched her brow. “Well, both. Because if you don’t have things, then you wouldn’t have a house, and you would be homeless, living on the street.”
“You don’t need to have a house to have a home,” I said. “You could have an apartment.”
“Oh, no!” she said. “I only want to live in a house. And when I grow up, I’m gonna live in our house.”
Atticus’s business has taken a beating in the Recession and our house, which was once affordable, has us overextended. In my worst, middle-of-the-night, surf-for-Law-and-Order-marathon panic attacks, I imagine us being unable to pay the mortgage, or sell the house, now valued for way less than what we paid for it.
So when Franny talked about how important the house is to her, I felt panicky and clutchy inside. I thought that this is how my mother must have felt, all those times she burst into tears when I said something seemingly benign but which invited adult insecurities.
My mother, a creative force, a gifted music teacher, had many strengths, but differentiation was not one of them. She became spectacularly unglued when she sensed I was wandering off in a different psychological direction.
I try not to let my worries bleed onto Franny because I don’t want her to feel she needs to take care of me. But I’ve been worried about holding onto the house, and how Franny would handle it if we had to move out. I wanted to know where she stood on this people vs. things business.
“So, when you’re on a playdate, what’s more important to you? The activity or the person?”
“The person!” she said, without a nanosecond’s hesitation.
I smiled. I smiled because Franny’s people-personness is one of the things I love about her. I smiled because I recognized myself in her: someone who loves shopping a little too much, but people more. I smiled because of all the values I hope to instill in her, the one at the top of my list, is that people matter more than things.
People and Things
Recently, I entered a decade that begins with “f” and ends with “y” but isn’t forty. I had a party which Franny helped orchestrate. She designed a “Who Knows Pauline the Best?” game, sat guests down in the living room, and handed out cards with questions like “what is Pauline’s favorite dessert?” (chocolate chip cookies) and “what is Pauline’s favorite store?” (Anthropologie).
The winner got a goodie bag with goodies Franny had selected herself: a candle, fancy matches, and a witch’s-boot-Halloween ornament.
I told people not to bring presents, but some did anyway. They were my favorite kinds of presents: arty, quirky, beautiful things.
My hair stylist, Vivica, made me this “goddess intentional bracelet.” You wrap the strip of blue suede around your wrist, and set your intentions on the beads.
My therapist friend Alexandra gave me this exquisitely simple blue bowl, accompanied by the teeny-tiniest pencils you’ve ever seen.
My other therapist friend Stella gave me this sea-blue pitcher from Anthropologie.
Yet another therapist friend, Stephanie, gave me a fabric necklace.
My friends Steve and Ellen gave me a memory: a photo taken half my life ago, on a day that I played an extra in Steve’s movie.
My boss gave me this jar. Inside are tiny pieces of paper, and written on each is a precious thing or non-thing we all need: clarity; forgiveness; family.
And a blogger friend whom I have never actually met face to face baked me a cake: yellow, with chocolate butter cream frosting. At midnight, after the guests were gone, and I was cleaning up, I took a picture of what was left.
Important People + Lovely Little Things = Happy.