2008.10.01 You can take it with you if your kids don't want it

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

My friend Kay called the other day. Kay is one of my oldest and dearest friends from high school days. Kay’s always been rather opinionated; she’s always felt free to speak her mind. She holds back nothing. Maybe that’s typical New York behavior—a lot of my New York friends are that way.

Sometimes I think it’s the effect of living under the rule of her Greek immigrant mother who put many restrictions on Kay’s life (but whom Kay would never disrespect by going against her word).

Kay argued with her mother all the time;   I witnessed many a long, heated and energetic clash—conducted in Greek with an occasional word of English tossed in—after which Kay would turn to me and say something along the lines of, “Sorry, Col, I can’t go. My mom said no.”

Family commitments (I have to attend a  baby shower for my third cousin twice removed), proper decorum (Boys will be there), safety (It’s a dangerous neighborhood) curfew (I have to be in by 6 p.m. before my mother gets home from work), weather (It’s too cold out) kept Kay from joining the rest of the gang in a variety of fun activities, including the most memorable New Year’s Eve watching the ball drop at Times Square (decorum, safety, curfew and weather all got in the way of that one—and she was probably expected to ring in the new year with her family, too).

So, Kay called—with big news. Her aunt from Florida had died and Kay had been named co-executor of the estate. She was one of six relatives who would be dividing the value of the aunt’s condo and contents.

Kay talked about the problems that have ensued among the relatives as they argue why they should be allowed to have certain items or be given extra money instead of material things that have no meaning for them.

It was entertaining to hear Kay moan about the behavior of her relatives and the things she said to them in no uncertain terms.

“Make sure you have a will, Col,” she said, “and specify what you want each of your kids to have.”

I laughed out loud.

“My kids aren’t going to want any of our crap!” I said with certainty.

“Don’t be so sure,” she said.

I promised to check with Ben, Rozee and Maddie so I e-mailed them that night.
Kay said I should make sure we have a will and say who should get what so you guys won’t fight about it later on. I just laughed and said you guys wouldn’t want any of our crap. (She thinks you are all remarkable wonderful children who wouldn’t fight over stuff anyway, but she was warning me that people get nutty over material things). So that made me wonder if there is anything you guys would want. Probably, you are all too young to even think about something like that, but I just wondered.

The really important question is, who wants the dryer lint collection and the little jar of finger nail clippings?

Ben and Maddie e-mailed back promptly the next morning; both had hit the Reply All button.

“Nothing really comes to mind right now,” said Ben.

“Yeah,” agreed Maddie.

Rozee never weighed in. I called her, afraid she’d fallen to some sort of New Orleans catastrophe.

“You never answered that e-mail about what you’d want,” I said.

“There wasn’t anything different to say,” she said. “I can’t think of anything I want.

“You wouldn’t want...” I looked around the room “…my wild woman doll?” I asked, slightly incredulous.

My wild woman cloth doll is one of my prized possessions. She hangs on a wall in the living room, watching over those who watch TV. Her black and white striped legs hang from a triangular body painted in splashes of color atop bands of purple, green, yellow, black and red fabric. Her black and white polka dot arms stick out from her sides. She wears the tiniest pair of bejeweled sunglasses. She’s totally cool.

I displayed her at the library a few years ago and maybe two people ever said anything in appreciation of her uniqueness, her colorfulness, her quirkiness, her craftsmanship, her 45-rpm record hat.

“You really don’t want my wild woman?” I asked again.

“Well, that’s not the sort of thing you’d put in a will,” Rozee said.

A few days later, I e-mailed Ben and Maddie, telling them what Rozee said and asking if they were interested in the doll.

“I’d be OK without it,” said Maddie.

Ben skirted the question: “I don’t really think we would fight over anything. We’re all pretty reasonable.”

“Is that a diplomatic way of saying you don’t want the wild woman doll either?” I asked.

Badger them until they relent. That’s my  child-rearing policy.

Ben could see where this was going—and he was nipping it in the bud.

“Yes, he e-mailed back. “That’s the only thing I want.”

So, I guess Rozee and Maddie can battle it out for who gets the dryer lint and finger nail clippings.

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