TigerFrom the series: Life on Dog Hill

One of my fondest childhood memories is visiting my paternal grandparents’ home. They lived in a small, white farm house on forty acres in north Alabama. In the early years, cattle roamed the fields, pigs and chickens occupied the barn, and I was forever begging my grandfather for a horse that he managed to continually deny.

Over time, the livestock disappeared and a pond was dug and stocked with fish. My grandfather took great pleasure in feeding them in the evenings and admiring how big they had grown.

Finally the day came when when my grandparents felt they were too old to care for the house and property. Much to my dismay, they sold it and moved to a small trailer next door to one of their daughters. It was heartbreaking for me to see the farm go, but I understood why they needed to move on.

The old barn and farm house came down many years ago. Today only the foundation remains, along with the pond which I hear boasts some pretty big fish. When I was visiting a couple of years ago, my sister contacted the family who now owns the land and asked if we could go over to walk the property. We wanted to look around and transplant some of my grandmothers’ flowers if any were left to be found. While we didn’t see any flowers, we did manage to pull away several stones from the foundation. Souvenirs of sorts, the kind that will last an eternity. The back end of my BMW was practically dragging, but I drove home happy. Those rocks are now prominently displayed near the fence by one of my gardens.

I’m thinking of my paternal grandparents today because I’m in the process of cleaning out years of clutter. A renovation project to replace the floors in our four upstairs bedrooms has given me the perfect opportunity to simplify. It was the process of carefully reviewing each item to determine if it would be allowed back into the room, recycled, or donated that had me staring lovingly at my tiger head.

I questioned, once again, the rationale of my sentimentality as I stroked its fur lovingly in my hand and rubbed its one remaining ear. The stuffed tiger had once belonged to my great aunt, who lived with my grandparents until her passing. Then it had become mine. Even after my dog ate away the body when I was in my early twenties, I kept the remaining head because I couldn’t bear parting with all that it represented — a childhood filled with simplicity and love.

Now at the age of fifty, I still can’t part with it. And that’s okay. Surely if I can be so sentimental over the remains of a stuffed animal older than I, the memories associated with it must be grand.

Grand they are.

While the thought of simplifying is appealing, the thought of having tangible evidence to represent such an important part of my life is even more so. Because I want it to be easy to remember as I get older, I’ll place the tiger head in a box and keep it on the top shelf of my closet. Perhaps I’ll write a letter to keep with it so that one day, when I’m gone, my kids won’t open the box and ask, “What the heck?!” Instead they’ll likely shake their head, cluck their tongues, and say with a smile, “Yep, that’s our Mama!”

What’s something that you don’t want to let go of?

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