PAT MCDER­MOTT: her guilty trea­sures

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS - An over­heard con­ver­sa­tion in a café re­veals there’s more to the art of pass­ing on un­wanted home­wares to loved ones than meets the eye. With PAT MCDER­MOTT

Sit­ting in a small café re­cently, I in­ad­ver­tently over­heard a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween two well-dressed older women. “I know it’s no fun be­ing told you have a fatty liver,” said one to the other, “but you have to look on the bright side.”

“What’s the bright side?”

“No­body can see it! I mean it’s not like you have to buy your liver a plus­size dress to wear to the wed­ding!” They both fell about laugh­ing. “What am I go­ing to wear?” asked the first woman. “I’m the grand­mother of the bride. Beige lace or red satin?” “Red satin,” I said to my­self. “Red satin!” said her friend. “Done – now for the gift. I was think­ing of giv­ing them my din­ing room ta­ble,” said the grand­mother. “But I don’t know if any­body wants this stuff any more.”

“You have to ‘guilt’ them into it,” said her friend. I pricked up my ears.

“Here’s what you do. Take the groom aside dur­ing the wed­ding re­cep­tion. Make sure it’s some­where noisy so he can’t hear you prop­erly. Tell him you’re giv­ing them… mum­ble, mum­ble, mum­ble. He wants to get back to his mates at the bar. He’ll agree to any­thing! He won’t re­mem­ber a thing un­til the ta­ble ar­rives at their door.”

“You’re ter­ri­ble!” the bride’s grand­mother said ad­mir­ingly. The barista and I ex­changed raised eye­brows. We had to agree.

Al­most a year af­ter the MOTH (The Man of the House) and I “down­sized”, I’m still try­ing to off­load fur­ni­ture, books and mem­o­ra­bilia to our chil­dren and chil­dren-in-law. I thought I might line all nine of them up in height or­der like the Von Trapp fam­ily and march them smartly down to our stor­age unit in the base­ment car park. We could sing as we went. Do-Re-Mi comes to mind but Climb Ev­ery Moun­tain prob­a­bly says it bet­ter. Then I’d de­liver an ul­ti­ma­tum. Take your prized be­long­ings now or for­ever hold your peace. Yes, I will take 20 years of hard-won net­ball, hockey, soc­cer, rugby and ten­nis tro­phies to the tip.

And there’s so much more. How can they re­sist the grey sofa bed (slept on by 250 overnight guests, each one of them toi­let trained) or a cedar desk that re­quires a team of oxen to move? They are also wel­come to one or more of 2679 books from Chess for Be­gin­ners to Nigella Law­son’s How to Eat.

Hands in the air please for the “ele­phant” wing chair! Large and green, it’s taste­fully em­bossed with gold li­ons, gi­raffes and ele­phants. Bud­dha the cat perched on its back. Jack the dog slept on the seat. It has his­tory, peo­ple! Some­one must want it.

Un­der­neath that pile of pack­ing cases over there is our orig­i­nal kitchen ta­ble. Ev­ery­one in the fam­ily has cried over spilt milk at that ta­ble. Re­mem­ber how the milk dripped silently through the cracks and pud­dled on the floor.

I had a quiet think about get­ting on with adult chil­dren and came up with some guide­lines for my­self.

1. They are like wild an­i­mals on the plains of Africa. Don’t make sud­den move­ments or sug­ges­tions. Al­ways ap­proach slowly and qui­etly.

2. Don’t try to give an adult child an old teddy bear, a framed photo of them­selves aged four-and-a-half or a cer­tifi­cate that says they can swim 25 me­tres un­aided. They find this stuff alarming.

3. Mil­lenials move of­ten. They pre­fer light­weight fur­ni­ture that falls apart on com­mand.

4. Never say “we need to talk” to an adult child. It sounds as if a) you have a ter­mi­nal ill­ness; b) you’re go­ing to jail; c) you’ve put their in­her­i­tance through the pok­ies.

5. Noth­ing you or I have, how­ever valu­able, is cool.*

*Ex­cept maybe my ele­phant chair. I hear the Guggen­heim Mu­seum in New York is in­ter­ested.

“Don’t try to give an adult child an old teddy bear... they find this stuff alarming.”

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