If only you could drown grief in the sea of possessions that arrives in the wake of a death. Instead, the stuff just makes you sink deeper.
When we moved Mom to my brother's house, I inherited a truckload of furniture and keepsakes, most of which are still sitting in boxes in the basement. We can barely use the dining room and kitchen, because two dining sets are jammed in there now. I don't want to part with either of them.
Now that Mom has passed, there is a whole new round of wrenching decisions to be made about what to do with her things. Mom never threw away anything, and neither did my Gran. The result is several generations worth of stuff that has moved in with us to stay.
My sister in law says they're holding on to a desk for me, because it was Mom's and I couldn't bear to think of it at Goodwill. There are already seven desks in this house. Every room except the kitchen and bathrooms has one. Where is the new one going? Where?
This week, a forty-five pound box from my sister arrived unannounced on my doorstep. It was like finding a litter of abandoned kittens out there; you have to take them in, but what are you going to do with them?
In the box were a few real treasures: two Fenton vases. A pair of brass candlesticks. Some nice earrings I can use.
There were hundreds of photographs, some in frames ... letters ... reels of home movies from decades ago. All of those have to stay, of course. Ditto for the watercolors Mom painted. Another box for my already crammed basement.
There was an afghan Mom made, white with a giant red cardinal in the center and green borders. I don't use red or green, but ... Mom made it. I guess it could come out for Christmas. There was a beautiful old crocheted bedspread, which the cat would shred in days if allowed anywhere near it. There were two fragile christening gowns I have never seen before, covered in fine French needlework. Well, I think, maybe there is a little more room in the cedar chest. But I know there isn't.
There was an ugly quilt top that was never quilted and a funny old Remington electric shaver from the 50's, still in the box with all the inserts. I think these may be eBay candidates. There were a lot of old linen napkins covered in brown spots, and a dozen embroidered ladies hankies. Goodwill? eBay? Trash?
Then there was the large pile of castoff knick-knacks, souvenirs, trinkets, toys, and drawer-dwelling whatsits. Some of them I remember from my childhood ... how could I throw them away? Some I know Mom loved, though I'm sure I never will. A small number are scooped into a bag for Goodwill, the rest go into another box for the basement.
And then, I found myself holding on to two stray Bobby pins. Bobby pins. Because I remember Mom putting her hair into pin curls with them.
I think I need help.