Hidden in the back of my closet is a yellowing plastic bag filled with AquaNet-crusted, faded pink, partially broken hair rollers. I have cherished them for the last decade. These were the rollers that my grandma, “Gram,” wrapped her graying blond hair in every night before bed. Although her clothing, appearance, and health changed over the years, the rollers were a constant.
Gram had a will. She meticulously divided her valuables to be sure that everyone received an equal share. Needless to say, the rollers were not included in the breakdown. When I found them left on her night table, though, free for the taking, I thought I had hit the jackpot! To me, these old pink rollers were more valuable than Gram’s jewelry. Because these rollers weren’t just items that Gram owned; they were pieces of her.
It’s interesting to think about our possessions and their “value.” Of course, there is the monetary price that any appraiser can quote. But then, there is the sentimental value, which is arguably more important than any dollar amount.
For me, the value of Gram’s rollers only revealed itself after she was gone. Had she decided before her death that she was done rolling her hair and the plastic was going in the garbage, I wouldn’t have cared, really. But now that she is gone they’ve taken on a whole new meaning. These gems instantly reminded of the nights I stayed at my Gram’s house when I was little, eating Entenmann’s crumb cake in our pajamas as we watched my favorite movies, Gram’s hair up in those rollers.
And so these crappy pink plastic rollers have come to stand for the moments that Gram and I shared when we were alone. I keep them in my closet, rather than prominently on display, because they’re private to me, and they have meaning only to me—no one else in my family is interested in the rollers. And that makes them all the more precious.
I know, from talking to friends and hearing other people’s stories of loss, that I’m not the only one holding on to the seemingly insignificant possessions of those I’ve loved. Do you have any material things from the people you’ve lost that mean the world to you? I’d love to know! Please share your story in the comments section below.