The White Elephant In The Room

Mom treasured this above all else.

Like many other girls my age in the 60s I had the chore of Saturday morning cleaning. This was when every tiny little ornament, every little dust ball under a bed, and every surface had to be cleaned. We had oil heaters in the living room and kitchen and they drew in the dust balls. My Mom would get so mad because I would gag and hack from the dust. I know she thought it was just dramatics to get out of cleaning.

As I have said before, my mother was not a very sentimental person. At least she didn’t express emotions or any attachment to things. She was not that kind of person. She didn’t seem to have any outward excitement about certain objects or items. Although in her defense, I did discover that she did keep many things like vaccination records, report cards, and school pictures, and one broken ornament I had bought her as a child.

But then there was the White Elephant. I was always told to be careful around the White Elephant. I was told by my mom how much she loved the White Elephant. She had had it since her childhood, and she wanted to keep it forever.

My Swedish grandparents had lived in the north end of Winnipeg. A community much like today that has a very diverse immigration population. My grandfather worked as a carpenter building elevators all over Manitoba Saskatchewan, and Alberta. They owned a boarding house which was run by my grandmother.

My mom spoke so kindly about an elderly woman who lived next-door to them in the north end. She didn’t have much from what my mom said, but she chose to give mom one of her most treasured possessions, the White Elephant. The woman had been given the White Elephant by her mother when she was just a child. It has no other information, so I have no idea how old it is, where it was originally made, etc. All I knew was that my mother loved it.

As kids we never played in the living room. We didn’t take a chance that it would be us that broke the White Elephant. And a piece of the White Elephant did break and I still have the broken piece inside the White Elephant. I can’t remember how it got broken or when it got broken, all I know is that I didn’t break it.

I often ponder on what effect this elderly woman had on my mother? I know my mom had a very painful childhood at times. I sometimes think that maybe this woman made her feel special. And I have to admit that I too treasured the White Elephant. My children were always made aware to take care not to break the White Elephant.

If the White Elephant taught me anything, it was to treasure the people and moments in my life. The White Elephant may last forever as it gets passed along, but it is a thing. It is not a part of me. It triggers memories and not bad ones. That is all.

Keep and treasure your loved ones. For that is your true legacy.

May I be safe. May I be healthy. May I be happy. May I live with ease.

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