I was 18. I was wearing a periwinkle jersey T-shirt dress with a buttoned breast pocket. I couldn’t get my bra strap not to show. It was white, pilled, pedestrian, hand-me-down. I kept looking over my shoulder and pushing it under the dress.
Meanwhile, I was testifying against my mother in arbitration. It’s what parties in a dispute do when they want legal resolution without going to court. My family was at war over who would get what money from the insurance settlement from my brother’s death.
Outside in the waiting room were two families that used to be one, pretending as if the other wasn’t there. Inside, the arbitrator explained to me that in order to calculate the division of the settlement, he needed to compile the monetary value my brother added to the family, in housework, outside chores, “anything you can think of that delineates his value alive.” The arbitrator also needed to estimate the monetary value of the love David had had for our mother…who sat there at the conference table…as I answered her lawyer’s questions–with the above-thou attitude of a teenager forced to do something against her will–pushing my bra strap compulsively under my dress.
I have been thinking about value. And currency. And debt ceilings.
Say you’re saving money for retirement and the system goes bust. Money is not enough to sustain you. What can you live on besides money?
I watched my grandmother age. She sat alone in her apartment, that circulated with friends and neighbors, yes, but she lived solo for 20 years after her husband died. Our conversations on the phone were twenty-five percent about current events, twenty-five percent about planning the future and fifty percent about memories. She had a store of them. Each day she would take a trip in her mind. Today, Glacier National Park with the grandkids. Tomorrow, Niagra Falls with the Wilsons after our honeymoon. Next week, leaving the office inside a moment’s notice when Orin got called to the War, setting up temporary housing with milk crates and the other war wives who had taken the train to Seattle from San Diego for basic training. They were scrapping together every last minute of six weeks with their men, before service to country took them and turned them into the men they would become. Or wouldn’t.
What if currency were not something to sock away, or something to horde, not printed on paper or debited in digital? What if it were something to embody? Exercise, build up, share, employ? Today, tomorrow, on rainy days, retired days.
What are your currencies?
What do you value? Who are you for people? What if money fails?
What do you trade for the good of your family, community?
What do you depend on soulfully when the currency of cash loses its value?
. . . . . . . . . . .
(You can read all of the Memory to Light stories in order on the side bar -–>)
Thanks for reading Day 14 of “Memory to Light: 31 Days of Stories, August 11 – September 11, 2011.” It is an exercise in writing about loss, for the purpose of letting grief wake, live, and pass through the system. Grief is transformation. Story is transformation. Our world could use a some wakeful transformation right now. Take a peek at the introductory post for the full story of what we’re up to.
Consider this project an online story circle. Read a story that moves you. Write your own on your blog. Link it to the comments below, so we can read your piece. If you don’t have a blog, write your story in the comments.
Let your memories live. Let small corners of your grief breathe. Let your loss be swept into the collective experience of people sharing, witnessing, and letting be.