Sunday, May 25, 2008

Time in a bottle

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.


Anonymous said...

Vicki ... maybe you do need help. Help with the letting go. Help with the cleaning out.

Help. Help.

My condolences on your loss. It is so very difficult to bear the loss of a parent.

I kept sewing needles. And one crochet hook.


MyMaracas said...

Thanks, Kathy. And you're right, I really do need some help. I'm going to get through my son's graduation and vacation in June. By then, maybe I'll be ready to be rational about all this clutter.

sallyacious said...

I'm still lucky enough to have both my parents, but someday...

And when that happens, what will my brother and I do with the stuff that they loved and cherished that doesn't work with our taste? For instance, will we save the Santa collection for my nephew? Hold on to it because someone we love loved it? Or will we deliver it to a thrift store or sell it on Ebay?

Such hard decisions. May you find the strength and assistance you need to make the right ones.

Kiva said...

I can empathize. I had to clean out my parents house and my mother-in-law's house. They were all of that generation of "keepers." As for the stuff in my parents' house, I boxed it up like you did. We don't have an attic or basement so I rented a storage unit. I took the items that meant a lot to me -- the dishes mom handpainted, her paintings, my grandma's paintings, my dad's watches, my grandpa's recordings -- and brought them home. As it would happen, a few days later someone broke into the locker and took the sets of dishes, crystal, and knickknacks that were stored. I was devastated then, but now I think they did me a favor. It made me realize that they were just things and what stay with you are the good memories.

MyMaracas said...

Thank you, Sally. I've begun to think about that too... what will my kids do with all this stuff? I think I owe it to them to deal with it now, rather than leave it for them.

Kiva, I can only imagine the anguish that awful theft must have caused you. But understand too the secret relief. I'm only now beginning to understand that the things are not the real connection with our loved ones, that it is the memories.

Thanks so much for your comments.