Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Framing the Future

Today I came across some of my deceased aunt's papers: degree certificates and an insurance policy.

The policy covered two fur coats and a mink stole, total declared value UK£270 in 1965, circa UK£4,700 (US$6,000) in 2017.

She saved the papers for my safekeeping, presumably in perpetuity. I'll scan, catalog, then shred them.
A modest, flawed person

My Aunt Madge lived modestly, she was not showy, but she needed to let it be known she had money and degrees.
She grew up in Greenock, Scotland in a small tenement flat with strict parents with high expectations.

Her father sharpened saws in the Lithgow shipyard, her mother stayed home. Madge and her brother were the first in the family to earn college degrees.

They lived from pay packet to pay packet while the Lithgow family accumulated wealth.

Her father would taunt his co-workers with statements like: "If you were to put your labor in a shop window, would anyone want to buy it?" No wonder old man Lithgow let him work into his mid-seventies.

Coming from this harsh background, Madge had a need to have demonstrable worth, and this got in the way of connecting with the people around her. Throughout her life she had acquaintances, but no consistent friends.
Madge and I, Bath, England, 1957. (I was 5.)
I loved my aunt. When I was a child, she fed my appetite for eccentric travel, and I'm eternally grateful for that. I value her memory, but holding onto the papers deflects my memory from someone with a big heart. Like all of us, she was flawed, but I choose not to dwell on that.

Moving on

In the next year, my partner and I will move from a house to a condominium. We will bring only what we will use to the next place.

I've allowed myself one box for sentimental items. If I fill it, and an item I care about does not fit, something will have to go. My certificates made it to the scanner, but not to the box.

What do you do?

"What do you do?" people ask. Today, I deflect that question. "Retired" is not a good answer because I don't see myself in terms of what I do not do.

Today I'm liberated from the pecking orders, the joys, the frustrations of the workplace. I can connect with diverse people, treasure my partner, pay it forward, write "f*ck" in blog posts, represent myself in a less-than-employable light, be kind, learn, play, whatever.
Frames and blind corners.
I look forward to new and unexpected journeys.

Notes: I have mentioned my aunt in three previous posts: Independent Scots, An Old Lady with Attitude, and End of the Line. I took the "empty frame" picture at the top of this post from across the Mississippi towards downtown St. Paul, MN, July 2016. I took the "Frames and blind corners" photo at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, also in July 2016.


  1. Never would have recognized the pudgy 5 year old :-)

    1. Yup, I was pudgy: cake and ice cream were food groups. My form master in junior school (Mr. Patterson) conferred the nickname "Tubby" upon me, playing off my girth and initials. I immediately embraced the name. In high school I was known simply as "Tub" which I find preferable to "Wilson."