How to Have Nice Things

To protect yourself, have Nice Things. With Nice Things you can build a wall of cobalt glass, pink carpet, tiny souvenir spoons. Raise this wall between yourself and Poverty, the Dust Bowl, the Capital-N-Nothing of your childhood.

When your daughter (who does not need Nice Things to protect her; you have protected her) comes for stories with her secondhand recorder, you need not speak of the Nothing. It is walled out.

You eat dust and Nothing, but someday you will have a pink carpet. Vacuum it each time you have visitors, in two-foot strokes against the grain and then across. Repeat this before and after your visitors come; the carpet is a Nice Thing.

 illustration by the author

illustration by the author

Nice Things must be displayed at all times. If a Nice Thing breaks it becomes Nothing. You must never patch up a broken Nice Thing; always replace it with a new Nice Thing.

When you are angry you must not damage your Nice Things. When you need a weapon, use your hands, your fingernails, the family dachshund but not the cobalt glass. Go mad in the uncarpeted bathroom with the white glass case that holds your dusting-powder. The scent is called Chantilly Lace.

Take your grandchildren antiquing. Try to explain the difference between things and Nice Things; their mother will not. Her carpet is brown and threadbare. She fears nothing- not Nothing.

Your youngest granddaughter is fearless. She breaks Nice Things without caring that the Nothing comes in. Her elder sister tries to repair broken Nice Things. You need not explain that it is too late. She will discover this on her own. The last time you see her, tell her you are proud of her. That her life, her accomplishments, are a Nice Thing. It will be the only time you understand each other.

Before you die, make sure your granddaughters have tiny spoons.


- Rowan Beckett Grigsby is outnumbered in Oregon by a menagerie and spouse. She tells truths at and lies at and has been known to have opinions on the internet.