I love idioms—especially when kids interpret them in the most literal sense imaginable. Needless to say, I am thoroughly (and often shamelessly) entertained by the manner in which my children assign meaning to this or that age-old expression. So as a matter of course, I inject said blurbages into as many conversations as humanly possible. Case in point, not long ago I asked one of my nine-year-old charges to take a stab at the intended meaning of the phrase, “You can’t take it with you.” Of course, having recently experienced the insanity that is airport security she summed it up thusly: “It’s like this, Mom. If you have an elephant and you want to get on an airplane…someone’s definitely going to say, ‘You can’t take it with you.’” She then added with her patented macabre flair, “Or, if your head falls off and rolls away, you can’t take it with you.”
Feeling at once amused and defeated as the Explainer-of-All-Things-Inexplicable, I tried to remember that the smallish beings in question can be painfully loyal to words. But like a fool, I broached the subject yet again, attempting to make clear the muddied waters. “No, no, no. It means that we should enjoy life, enjoy what we have and stop worrying about not having enough money, because when we die, we can’t take it with us anyway. It’s like spending the whole day at the beach, building the most amazing sandcastle you’ve ever imagined—digging moats, carving tunnels and gathering all sorts of twigs and shells and clumps of seaweed to make it really special. And it’s terrific fun—this sandcastle-y stuff. Then it’s time to go and we have to leave it there, knowing that the tide will later wash it into the sea no matter how much we love it.”
For my efforts, I received nothing but a blank stare and a shrug of the shoulders—as if I had tried to simplify for her the theory of relativity. Apparently, the merit of idioms having any sort of “deeper meaning” was completely lost on her. So I gave up, resigning myself to the notion that some things are impossible to convey to those gleefully immersed in a world of literalness.
But it got me thinking—about the basic premise of the idiom itself. Money, power and worldly possessions will be of no use in Heaven. In a lot of circles, that’s pretty much a given. And aside from the obvious longing to “take with me” the people and pets I have loved in my lifetime, I really shouldn’t concern myself with other wants or desires. But I find such a concept wholly inconceivable. Intolerable almost. Quite frankly, there is stuff (for lack of a better term) that I can’t imagine leaving behind.
Like my refrigerator. Not its contents so much, but its surface—the one that is entirely blanketed with favorite photos, prized artwork and treasured keepsakes that chronicle our life together as a family. Seemingly every square inch represents a tiny window through which an unforgettable slice of time can be viewed. For all intents and purposes, it is a giant mosaic that depicts in glorious detail all that is meaningful and memorable to me—serving as a daily reminder that life has been good. I have trouble envisioning being separated from such a wondrous thing.
Nor am I fond of the idea of parting with my iPod. Or my beloved camera. Or my inordinately addictive cell phone—not that I anticipate feeling the need to call or text anyone, but because I’m quite certain I will long to listen to the voicemail messages contained within. Like the pictures, they are moments frozen in time, a bundle of words that carry special meaning for me.
Equally precious is my work space—not because of the vast array of self-absorbed writings stored on any computer there or the siren song of the Blogosphere, but because of the sea of photos, the abundance of heartfelt notes and the ever-expanding mass of rocks and drawings my kids have insisted I display in the vicinity of said device “…to help you remember me while you work, Mom.” Without question, I can’t bear the thought of parting with the stash of handcrafted “Hug Tickets” one of my progenies recently bestowed upon me either. Besides, the words “Usable at Any Time or Place” are inscribed therein—so why not Heaven, I ask.
And what about sandals? And delicious books? And pockets to put things in? You never know when you might need a dog treat or a place to store pretty pebbles. Heaven ought to allow such necessities to pass over the transom. Further, I cannot fathom leaving behind my wealth of childhood memories—or the ones I’ve harvested since becoming a wife and mother. Indeed, it would be a cruel twist of fate not to be able to instantly recall the way my children’s eyelashes curl while they sleep and the soft, warm kisses only the man I love can deliver.
And there had better be snowflakes in that place of eternal rest. And raindrops and sunshine and moonbeams and birds—great flocks of them that move as one, dipping and diving together, a massive collection of tiny, black specks that dot the skies in the distance and make great whooshing sounds as they pass directly overhead. Mark my words; I’m coming back if the aforementioned “stuff” isn’t there and I’ll be putting a note in God’s Suggestion Box, ever the discontented disciple.
Idiom or no idiom, I want to take it with me.
Planet Mom: It’s where I live (still chortling over my friend Trish’s twist on the ever-popular idiom: “We drop the ball in this household so often…it’s a Frisbee.”)
Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel
3 responses to “You Can’t Take it with You”
According to Patrick Swayze to Demi Moore, “You take it all with you. The Love, you take it with you…” That’s all I need.
Try explaining to a 6-year-old “get crack’n” …
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