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Barbara Parent

A capital Q worth keeping


Aunt Queena signed her name with a capital Q that resembles the number two.

Although to describe Aunt Queena’s capital Q as resembling the number two is not totally accurate. I look closely at, “Lovingly, Aunt Queena,” written at the end of her letter to me, and I smile and think that Aunt Queena’s “2” curves out of the number’s loop in a flourish.

Yes, Aunt Queena’s capital Q does resemble the number two. But not totally.

Aunt Queena’s “2” is as distinct as her tapered and polished nails and her dainty sneezes, usually five to eight in a row.

Aunt Queena’s signature is on letters she wrote to me in from 1979 and subsequent years until she died and I have kept her letters all these years in a wicker picnic suitcase. The suitcase, the size of a small valise, is one of many I have collected over the last 30 years or so. Stored inside are cards, notes, letters, newspaper clippings and the like that have special meaning for me.

I do not want to part with my wicker suitcases. But downsizing has become a buzzword for my generation. AARP Magazine provides suggestions. Seems we have arrived at the stage in our lives when we should give some serious consideration to letting go of stuff we have accumulated over our lifetimes. Clean out our attics and basements, garages and sheds and every closet in our houses packed full of “stuff” that must have weaseled its way in as we slept.

Downsizing. What if the word is really just a candy-coated allusion to something other than its definition indicates? What if the downsizing process isn’t so much a need to be organized and have our Tupperware all in a row but that loved ones won’t be stuck dealing with it all? And when I ponder that thought further, I know what means.

At first, accumulations don’t seem that big a deal unless you’re featured on “Hoarders.” And, the accumulations in my wicker suitcases are not going to bring to light anything emotionally shattering as in “Bridges of Madison County” when Francesca’s two grown children discover, while going through their mother’s belongings after her death, her love for photographer Robert Kincaid while married to their father.

I look around at my personal accumulations and know my sons will embrace my books; the Ironstone should fetch something from a dealer or on eBay if someone figures out how to go about it.

And the wicker suitcases? Well, anyone going through my stuff will discover as soon as they open them that Hemingway’s unpublished early manuscripts, stolen before he became famous, they are not.

The contents, however, may catch the eye of those left behind and maybe, just maybe, some items will not be destroyed for the very reason that they meant so much to me.

So, in the meantime, I’ll by-pass the downsizing frenzy knowing that while I no longer hear Aunt Queena’s delicate sneezes, I can open my wicker suitcase and still see her distinct Capital Q.



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