Marcia's Daughter

Navigating Middle Age and Beyond

Judith A. Ross

Judith A. Ross
Concord, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
March 21
I am a contributing writer and columnist for Talking Writing, an online literary magazine, have been a regular contributor to Harvard Business Online, and am the former Senior Research Writer at the Center for Effective Philanthropy. My byline has also appeared in Harvard Business Review and numerous publications at Harvard Business School.


Editor’s Pick
APRIL 19, 2011 11:07AM

The Stuff We Keep

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Has anyone seen our birth certificates? My husband needs them to prove our birth dates to his company. After working there for 32 years, he is retiring in June. The search for these pieces of paper has taken me to the bottom of drawers and into file cabinets I haven’t examined in years. 

For example, under a pile of scarves I found a birthday card from my youngest that he gave me more than a decade ago.


 "Happy Birthday Mom," he wrote at the bottom, "Sorry we got in a fight." Somehow I know there were two of us in that fight.

card 2

That card went back into the drawer. As did the archive of both sons' early artwork and later recital and concert programs.

I have been thinking a lot about streamlining my belongings. My husband is retiring, and while he will continue to work as a carpenter, our long term plan includes selling the family home and moving to a new, more stimulating location.

As his design assistant, and in preparation for that eventual move, I’ve been boning up on home design, pouring through design books borrowed from the library, and scouring design blogs. The more streamlined homes that have just enough clutter to make them homey and personal really appeal to me.

So as I look around our home, I think about all the stuff I’d like to get rid of. One day I told my husband that I couldn’t wait to have a big yard sale so we could free ourselves of the recliner and futon couches in the basement, along with all the extra house and kitchen ware we rarely use.

In fact, I said, there are only a few pieces of furniture I wouldn’t part with: the sofa with the linen slipcover sewn right in my living room by an amazing seamstress (I’ll give you her name if you want it); the big, beat up Aalto table I have in my office, purchased at a yard sale for $15.00; our dining room hutch —the first piece of furniture we bought together; and the living room rug.

About that rug. This morning, while I was ruthlessly cleaning out a file drawer, our 6-month old puppy was ruthlessly shredding the edge of the rug. I’d post a picture of the damage but I immediately rolled it up and put it away where I wouldn't see it for a while. Puppy was exiled to her crate. There was yelling.

When I let her out, I told her I was keeping her on a leash at all times. She looked at me quizzically and then came over and licked my ear as if to say, “C’mon, its only a rug. I'm still here. I love you!” It felt like an echo of “Happy Birthday, Mom. Sorry we got in a fight.”

Both times I was the adult and both times I forgot what was important. Fortunately, a spat with a young teen is soon forgotten, and a rug with a shredded edge can be repositioned, repaired, or even discarded. But the generous love of a son, and the open adoration of a puppy—that's the stuff we keep.


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Darn straight love is what we keep. This is a terrific piece, Judith, and I love the pix.
I missed this one.... I have my drawer of cards, notes, and my fair share of "shredded rugs". Each tugs at my heart, and now, as time goes on, I am so grateful for them. Thank you again for your amazing words.