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If you're the kind of reader who likes a story seasoned with irony, then you might appreciate this one.

So my maternal grandmother gave me her doll a long time ago. A great big beautiful bisque girl with blue glass eyes and a mohair wig made in Germany. It was hard for my grandmother to hand over that doll — especially to me, because the sad truth is that I am as clumsy as a bull in a china shop. Except that I'm a girl. So technically that would make me as clumsy as a cow in a china shop.

See? When it comes to cattle trivia, I am ON IT.

Anyway. My brother once said that he could always tell when I'd opened a cereal box because it looked like Bigfoot had been in our pantry, and my husband still says my favorite tool is a hammer. You get the picture. I'm hard on things. Very, very hard on things.

But here's the deal. Because I was her only granddaughter, my grandmother had no choice but to leave the doll with me. And I have taken excellent care of her. She's been sitting in a tiny rocker by the fireplace where she has unnerved neighborhood children for years because (I've since been told) antique dolls are super creepy and scary.

Sorry about that, Neighborhood Children! I had no idea I was scarring you for life! And btw I also had no idea you guys were such big weenies!

But that's not the point. The point is this — last weekend we had a huge open house, and as I was bustling about getting ready for all our guests, it occurred to me that the doll would be safer if I moved her into another room. Which I did. And sure enough, nobody at the open house accidentally broke the doll. Which is why she was as lovely and pristine as ever this morning. Until I tripped over the rocker myself. And heard the sick thud of a bisque doll doing a face plant on a hard wood floor.

As I scooped up the pieces of my grandmother's doll, my hands shaking, I told myself that things are only things. They don't matter. As Patricia Arquette's character in the movie "Boyhood" observed, you spend the first half of your life acquiring stuff and the second half of your life getting rid of it. And I have been getting rid of stuff like crazy this summer — tearing through closets and drawers and dispatching things to D.I. like the Blues Brothers on a mission from God.

But when that doll broke this morning, I remembered my grandmother's funeral and how when we took my grandfather back to their home after the service was over, he asked us to leave him alone for awhile.

"Are you sure?" my mother asked, her brow furrowed in concern. "Wouldn't you rather come up to the house with us?"

My grandfather shook his head. "I just want to sit here for a while. You know. With Louise's things."

And so we honored his request. We left him sitting in the home he and his wife had built together — weak wintry sunlight slanting through the window — surrounded by the artifacts of a life.

It's true what they say. Things don't matter much.

Until they do.

Ann Cannon can be reached at

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