Living the Sweet Life: I Am The “Keeper”

By Alisa Murray
Nationally recognized
portrait artist and

Recently I received a call from my Aunt Carolyn who has decided to downsize her home and as a result, created for herself a forced purging of things. She called me and asked if I wanted this or that, and I told her each time she reached out the same thing, “I’ll take everything.” She knew what I would say before she even asked, as I am the familial “keeper” of things.

I am officially the “keeper” for so many reasons, some due to trauma, others just because it’s in my DNA. Now everyone knows that there’s a difference between being a “keeper” and a “hoarder.” No one would ever dare call me a hoarder except for my Brian, and he only does so with jest after all of these years together concerning my “need” to always have a stack of water bottles and a stash of vodka at all times. And in times of scarcity – similar to the ones we recently experienced – he has taken back any jokes of jest because he is now grateful for that “hoard.”

Granny’s desk.

I have, as the “keeper,” tasked myself to gather all things possible from a childhood shattered by my mother’s death and a need to feel connected to loved ones lost. It is as ingrained in me as it is to breathe. As a result, I have my mother’s wedding gown, her nursing uniform, a full book tightly packed with newspaper clippings of her accomplishments and a two-page write up of both her wedding and her car accident and subsequent death. I also have a large stash, thanks to my Uncle Jim, of pictures.

My Uncle Jim, yes the photographer who also valued and was the “keeper” of things as well, saw in me a talent and more than that an actual passionate understanding of what being a photographer really is. We create images today that are eventually some of our most treasured items. Once we die, what is really more treasured than our pictures? What is more important than that? Well, it’s their good stuff too! It’s the chairs that they sat in and did embroidery. Nana’s chair is my cat, William’s, most beloved spot for napping.  It’s the bowls they made and taught us how to make their biscuits in.  It’s their weathered bibles.  It’s their things that they used to create their own lives that carry on memories.

Mother’s bike.

Aunt Carolyn, though not a “keeper,” discovered some real treasures in her move. She found Mother’s bike, Big Daddy’s rocking chair and a desk that Granny used to teach both Uncle Jim and Mother school work on. Granny was a college educated teacher and taught third grade for over 25 years. Penmanship and mathematics were her forte. It does not go unnoticed either that Uncle Jim knew at some point Aunt Carolyn would find them and would know exactly who they belonged to. I was and still am overjoyed with these new editions to my “keeping of all the things.” I imagine restoring the rocker and rocking my grandbabies. I imagine teaching my grands how to ride not just any bike, but my Mother’s bike! All the while in these latter years feeling connected more to those loved and lost. Thank goodness for those of us who are “keepers!”

Take care of YOU and as always be “sweet!”