The Portuguese, or at least some of them, or PARTICULARLY my mom have a tendency to burn most of the belongings/correspondence/papers of the deceased.
This is something that would shock Americans and in fact it is probably a measure of my acculturation that I was somewhere between shocked and upset when mom burned paternal grandma’s decades of correspondence.
You see, grandma was the family’s node point, keeping in touch with relatives and friends from 80 years before, and their outflung progeny. Also as part of her correspondence would be 30+ years of daily letters to/from grandad where he worked all over the world froM Brazil to Venezuela to South Africa. During the period of early 30s to mid 50s. Just the casual historical mentions in that would be…
OTOH I get mom’s habit is more normal for Portugal than the tendency to save and study everything.
This might be because, as Robert puts it, Portugal is an iceberg in time. The amount of history and the amount of Portugal buried below the waterline in time greatly exceeds the present.
The same way family tombs with a vast chamber where you lower the new coffin atop the old ones, and the ones at the bottom likely become dust, burning most of what we get from the dead might be the sane thing to prevent the past taking over and choking out present and future.
Heck, a lot of us do this in our own lives. I’m in the middle of a process of doing that with my clothes, since the weight is FINALLY coming off. So, formerly cherished and go to garments, that are dropping off my butt or sagging on my chest are being given away. (some will be retrofitted, but honestly, I prefer to donate so that someone having an issue with their weight can find something nice.) This is more of a wrench than you think, considering that sometimes those garments were the one bright spot, the one thing I knew looked good on me, in an otherwise blah time.
I do the same with a lot of other things, form knickknacks to dishware, from books to music. Things that were important to myself at some time but no longer used, I try to donate so that someone else can enjoy them. Sometimes they are things that I used for purposes I no longer need to fulfill.
For instance, there was the collection of fondue pots. We used to have a new year’s party at our house when the kids were little, and serve fondue. Then we moved, and stopped having the party. So the fondue pots got eventually donated.
OTOH I shocked the woman who came to pack my house, because I keep a box (just one) of kids clothes, most of them toddlers’ but from six months to about five years. You see, one of the things is a lambskin winter coat where the hood has EARS. And the back says douce come un agneau. My best friend from elementary school, who married a Frenchman, gave us that for Robert at a time when we literally couldn’t afford a winter coat for him. And he looked adorable in it, as did his brother later on. They looked like teddy bears with human faces. And it was warm. Then there’s the dragon outfit I made for Robert when he was five. The knit coat and hat mom bought Marshall. Etc.
The packing lady was like “But your sons are grown!” And sure, they are. But hopefully there will be grandkids who’ll wear the coat and look adorable. And anyway, those are pieces of their childhood and important TO ME. Do I mind if the kids throw it all out when I die? No. They’re important TO ME. The kids might find them funny or not. It doesn’t matter.
I’m trying to minimize, however, the amount of cr*p the kids have to deal with when we die. Which means sometime in the next year there will be a great purge, mostly of art stuff. (Since I now do most of it on the computer.)
Yes, this was brought about by the fire at Notre Dame.
It seems that they saved a lot more than not. And I’m confident the French will do well by the source of revenue. And of course, it’s part of the patrimony of mankind. I mean, mom was in tears about it.
But in a post-Christian Europe, how long will those marks of the past be acceptable and tolerated, much less cherished? What comes after? And how many things form other civilizations have we already discarded or lost that would be relevant to us.
This is one of the things that fascinates me about lost civilizations (for the purpose of this post as advanced as ancient Greece, Rome, or even Gobleki Tepe)?
It disturbs me, like the idea of grandma’s lost letters. What there, what true patrimony of mankind is lost forever, beneath the Earth or burned or otherwise obliterated. What would it tell us about our ancestors and ourselves?
No way of knowing, except in dreams.
It is important, the way Notre Dame is important. Because it gives us the range of bigger than ourselves things humans can accomplish. A measure of human dreams.
And yet much of it, maybe most of it, is burned, lost in the past we can’t retrieve without a time machine (makes story note.)
And only those of us who dream in words can bring it forth for the rest of the world.
Which is why we must.