The Things that Remain…


I admit that my last blog was rather gothic, although writing about my doldrums is a way of writing things out of my system and thus free therapy for me. I want to switch gears and tell you that I’m certainly not ready to jump off a cliff (yet). Dealing with life’s blows is part and parcel of living, and we can’t have the ups without the downs.

So moving on…

In the last few weeks I have been shedding (joyless) stuff but as we were emptying Jon’s dad’s apartment, we also brought stuff back into the house, and, possibly, at a higher rate than us ditching stuff. At first, I told Jon, I didn’t want a thing, a sentiment I had had when we were emptying my parents’ house as well, but then a wise aunt said “Please reconsider– it’s all that remains and cherish the pieces you have a connection with.” She was right. In our rush and frenzy to empty a place, it becomes quickly overwhelming and once we start tossing stuff, it’s easy to take everything to the dump.

So… Jon brought home three Persian rugs, we got some chairs and after a lot of humming and hawing, I broke down and took my mother-in-law’s desk. No place to put it of course so I jammed it into one of the bay windows of the kitchen:

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In fact, it fits perfectly in terms of size and with that little Persian rug underneath, it does make for a cozy corner. Sitting at it feels weird and good at the same time. Weird because it feels like appropriating a piece of furniture I never asked for, and good because it reminds me of my dear mother-in-law whom I still miss. It’s no precious antique but it’s well made with drawers that don’t buckle (like IKEA’s). The table top is a smooth mahogany surface and since I mentioned the solid drawers I do want to share the birthday card I found in there. It’s a little time capsule of the kids, writing to their beloved grandma:

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I like Caroline’s “Absolutely the best!” and William’s characterization of Dot as “Deceivingly smart” and, especially the “Yell Proof” because she was, and as such, a contrast with her husband whose go-to MO was yelling which, time and again, scared the socks off of me.

If you look at the photo of the desk again, you see, on the right, a Chinese statue (ivory woman with lotus flower), and Jon said that his mother told him at the time that it was a precious antique though certainly not my thing. I contacted a store in the city that deals in Asian antiques and they told me they can’t take ivory because of the “restrictions” on ivory (Duh– should have thought that one through). It’s fine to inherit or pass on in the family but you can’t sell it, and rightly so because I, too, worry about the extinction of elephants due to disgusting trophy and ivory hunters. So the wench with the lotus flower stays and the scene of the desk with other family stuff feels a bit like Lares, the sacred spaces the Romans created in their homes to honor their ancestors, who in turn, served as guardian angels or spirits of the family.

In other words, every time I tell Jon it feels like a fucking pawn shop (uitdragerij in Dutch and I love that word because my mother used it for any interior that looked burgerlijk or just cluttered), I should bite my tongue: we’re not hoarding but creating Lares around the house.

I need to update you on some other things. Due to my workload and life shit surrounding my father-in-law’s death, my writing on Henry Miller came to a screeching halt and I know from experience that once you lose momentum on a writing project, it becomes harder to return to it, the more you become removed from it.

That said, my first Henry Miller article was published by Nexus, the Henry Miller Journal. I shared this article with my donors of the GoFundMe I started at the time, and if you’re interested, let me know and I can share it with you as well. I hope to get more articles submitted and published, as a way also to generate interest for the larger manuscript I’m working on but I’m excited because the book I’m writing, (i.e. a personal memoir about Miller’s relationship with the most important women in his life, and my personal relationship with him, as a woman and a 21st century reader) is an up and coming genre (that is, the genre of writing a memoir about a famous person and intermingling it with a personal story of your own) that’s gaining more ground and more popularity.

The desk, that reluctant family heirloom, is now the space where I go for Miller when I need a change of scenery after doing a day’s work of translation and review. When I get blocked, I stare at the Lotus Lady. She doesn’t talk back alas, but the lotus in her arms reminds me that purity, which the lotus apparently represents, is a standard to be emulated when you write. Purity is integrity, originality and forces me to keep it real. It also reminds me of my mother-in-law, whose grace and elegance were authentic and pure, even though my memory of her now also gets conflated with something as simple as a quiet, elegant desk that we almost took to the dump…

It is all that remains…

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