Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Prized Collection

Paloma glanced at the room, making sure it was spic and span, every object in its place. Her eyes then ran over the various mementos she had collected over the years during her travels. The large African tribal dolls, the Mexican hat on the wall, the miniatures from Thailand, the ivory table - again, from Africa... Juggling, shuffling, remodeling her rooms sometimes to fit in her acquisitions.

When her husband and she divorced a few years ago, she had negotiated hard to get this house with the artifacts. They hadn't fought so hard about the custody of the children even! Building on what she had - how she loved it! She had managed to find a job that helped her maintain her lifestyle. She traveled, collected, displayed them and invited people for parties so that her displays could be admired and envied. Once her children flew the nest, she felt all her restrains breaking. To the world and her friends, it looked as if she were filling the emptiness in her life with travel. But to her, the children had finally vacated the space she needed to explore the world more. Of course she loved them, they were her children, after all! But she could not hang them on walls. Their achievements were modest and sometimes a good excuse to entertain. Now...

The phone rang. "Hi baby!" she said, excited to hear from her daughter.

"How was your trip?" Tapasi asked.

"Great! I got a rare miniature painting that I just hung up near the staircase. You know the space..."

"Yea, yea... I know. I just called to say I maybe coming down next week for a couple of days."

"Oh how wonderful! You haven't seen the ivory box or the sandalwood..."

But her daughter impatiently ended the call. Paloma sighed sadly. Her daughter strangely did not share her excitement for beauty. She hoped at least her daughter-in-law would. After all, after her, it would all pass down to them and she hoped it was to someone who knew the worth of the things she had collected painstakingly.

But that was not to be. The young bride of her son was an outdoors person who traveled light and liked her house furnished simply. Paloma turned to her daughter, trying to get her excited, telling her of the money she spent on each piece, where she bought them, how she knew it was authentic stuff... Paloma hoped Tapasi was able to appreciate the time and effort each piece cost her.

When she breathed her last, her thoughts were for her possessions. Would they be taken good care of?

"This is like a museum!" Nethra, the daughter-in-law said as Paloma's children and their spouses sat around to discuss the next move. "Selling it is the only way out."

"But who will buy? Are they really worth it?" Veer, Paloma's son asked.

"How many times I told mom not to just keep getting things! I told her we have our own stuff to worry about, but she insisted it was for us! Let's just divide them and then do the best that we can!" Her voice broke as she remembered her mother's pride in her purchases, but frustration at being burdened with all this contorted her face.

The discussion continued long into the night, and Paloma's spirit, which lingered awhile, screamed in agony unheard as her callous children treated the artifacts with scant respect. How she wished she could take them with her to her new home! How she wished she could mark this address and be reborn. But already, she was dissolving into nothingness and her memory fading. Only the desire to cling to her acquisitions remained strong.

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