When you're packing up the final remnants of a household that was an entity for almost 67 years, you find things you didn't even realize still occupied space on planet earth and a mix of curiosities spanning those six decades that will evoke every single emotion known to man...everything from laughter to tears to awe and surprise. The act of rummaging through these treasures runs the gamut of feelings produced by a lifetime of extraordinary love and devotion, mingled with a little heartache and sadly a few regrets.
My sister came to spend a couple of days with me so that we could tie up a few loose ends at our dad's house. Even though I had dealt with most of the items that my parents possessed (some things for the entire 66 years they were together), there were things I felt my sister should look through so as to claim some of her own history to carry down through the ages...or at least the next 20 or 30 years till our children can reluctantly make the same hard decisions (it's their duty as our offspring, you know). There have been larger items sold to raise finances for my dad's care, items that were unfortunately worth only a few dollars at our garage sales, and some that should've been trashed 20 years back. But then there were those items we lamented over. Do we keep this in the family or reluctantly part with it? Is this something I can use and continue to enjoy and then pass on to my kids and grandkids? How do you release something that has been in the family for well over half a century? By the end of Day 2 and following three trips to Goodwill, we had successfully made the decision on each and every last item, but not without first dropping a few of those tears and engaging in a couple of bouts of belly-busting laughter.
There was an assortment of boxes and containers holding everything from the retro toaster that still works but we're not sure should be fully trusted to the treasured family albums my mom had put together of the many, many photos taken over the years. We found evidence that she saved every greeting card ever gifted her in the last 60 years because I am absolutely sure she couldn't bring herself to throw them out. And greatly to our surprise, we found boxes filled with -- I could not believe it -- stacks of pictures my siblings and I had drawn in kindergarten! We found letters written to my parents when we were kids and visiting our grandmother in the summer. We found awards we'd received, report cards, elementary class pictures, Vacation Bible School certificates, and even greeting cards from 1959 congratulating my parents on the birth of their new baby boy. It was a treasure-trove representing tiny and not-so-tiny moments in our lives that no one, not even us, remembered. We were shocked in a creepy kind of way when I found my first tooth in an envelope and my first lock of blonde hair. Ewe. Why in the world do we save such things? Sorry, Mama, but those things went straight into the trash where, hopefully, some sweet mother bird will recycle the hair for nest-building material. After carefully choosing a few drawings and letters that spoke to us, the rest was delegated to the trash as well. One by one we went through photographs of our family, our grandparents, great grandparents and extended family, and quite a few of folks we hadn't a clue who they were. We tried to carefully consider each and every picture because my mom always had a reason for every one she kept and we tried to honor that. However, when we found images (at least 10 or 15) of the drainage ditch they put in 15 years back, that was a no-brainer. The pictures were tossed one by one into the burn pile.
But through this two-day endeavor with my sister (which in and of itself was a precious and rare time just being with her), we were reconfirmed about one thing. There is only one reason a person would lug all these antiquities from house to house and find a spot for them taking up precious real estate year after year, and that is LOVE. My mother loved her children dearly...immensely...completely and without reservation... Her love for us was not only lived out while she was alive, but now confirmed in her absence as well. The love of a mother is one of life's richest blessings but unfortunately not a blessing that everyone gets to experience. My sister, my brother, and I most definitely did. Day after day, week after week, and year after year there was never one single solitary moment when we were not loved by our mother, and for that I will be eternally grateful. And to this day her love still permeates us to our cores. What a true blessing to be able to claim the love of a mother's undying devotion.
So we close another chapter in our lives. Except for the few items my dad took with him to his new little apartment, he owns very little now. One day I suppose our kids will be faced with the same chores of sorting through our earthly "stuff" and racking their brains as they decide what to do with it. And listen up kids... I hope as you do, you too will be reminded of our great love for you, for it runs wider than the sky and deeper than the ocean. I hope you are reminded of the sacrifice mothers make for their children and that, regardless of how tiny or insignificant something might be to others, if it is from you or about you or mentions your name, it will remain precious to us and it just might be impossible for us to part with it in our lifetime.
But for future purposes, I give you absolute permission to discard things now if necessary. Be released from hanging onto every birthday and Christmas card we have given you and we promise to do the same. You are forgiven if you run out of space for the gift we gave you in the nineties or just simply because it is now totally outdated. Throw it out, baby! We promise to make it easier for you if you promise to make it easier for your children. Because even though items might seem precious at a given moment in time, memories are the things that we carry with us forever. They linger, they remind us, they sustain us, our memories. They are the caretakers of our experiences and they mold and complete our lives by giving us insight as to who we are. They take up little space in our houses but occupy great big ol' chunks of our hearts.
However... You can rest assured, we will not be keeping your hair or your first tooth for you to find in a dingy old box when you're 60 years old. Just ain't gonna happen, we promise.
And you're very welcome for that.
Posted by CC
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