Tuesday, September 6, 2016

FW 9.4.16

There are tables and tables covered with angels, Halloween, Christmas, glassware, odd dishes, and knickknacks.  Scattered across the floor, stacked against chair legs and doorways are framed pictures of tigers.  It could be an estate sale anywhere.  But today it is at my mom's.  She hasn't lived here in three years.

The house is closed and dusty smelling.  And it is sold.  I'm glad that it won't be a burden anymore.  But there's this weird eternally optimistic piece of me that is sad too.  As if it hoped for a miracle.  As if it hoped she might overcome her advanced Alzheimer's and come home someday.  And now that it's sold, it has to come to grips with the truth.  She is never coming home, never coming back here.  There will be no more family holidays with her at the epicenter.  

I am sad that an entire life comes down to this collection of baubles and junk.  Shit she clung to desperately as if it could save her.  But it didn't.  It brought her joy - for a moment anyway.  I guess it was good for that at least.  In the end, it didn't save her, didn't bring her joy.  She worried constantly about her things.  What would happen to them?  Where would they go?  Who would take them?  No one had the heart to tell her that none of it was worth anything to anyone but her, that just because she loved it and made room for it didn't mean that anyone else would.  Most of it will end at Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul or the landfill or some stranger's home.

There are old women pawing through her things, insisting I listen to their stories as they do.  I want to slap their hands away, shout at them to FUCK OFF!  I have an old woman whose stories I have to attend.  They are not her.  They are haggling over items they know are expensive.  The linen table cloth she embroidered from the time my oldest brother was born until he graduated medical school is casually looped over one of their arms.  I want to snatch it away.  I want to hold it next to my cheek as if all the love of all those stitches could be absorbed there.  But I don't.  I grit my teeth and let it go, knowing it will end up in another yard sale ten years from now and no one will know the stories, the love, the care she took.

I can't keep it all.  I don't really want to - not really.  But I would rather give it away than endure this casual haggling over her things.

This dissembly of her things is such a clear physical representation of her life, her mind.  Things stashed and stored in cubbies.  Things lost or missing parts.  Baby food jars of buttons from clothing I remember - all color coordinated.  Knitting patterns from the 1950's.  A pair of blue flannel pajamas still pinned to the pattern pieces.  Hundreds of pieces of fabric, of balls of yarn, or finished, half-finished and never-to-be-finished needlework.  The work of a life spread out for all to see and judge.

I don't know what they see when they look at it.  I suspect they see junk.  That's what makes me angry.  For in every cardinal, every snowman, every feather of every angel's wing I see my mom.  


  1. Shortly before she died my mother insisted that I go through costume jewelry she got from her mother. I really didn't want to do it. I didn't want to keep any of it. I missed the moment. I failed to understand how important it was to her that I do what she asked me to do. I wish I had been as wise as you.

  2. Wow, as usual you write so eloquently and about something so difficult. I have been there and just had to walk away from it all. The estate sale in California took place when I was in Ohio. Thankfully, I didn't have to experience what you did. I would have felt the same. But, you must have kept a few things. I took my mother's unfinished sweater that she was knitting. I don't know when she stopped knitting it, but it was hers and I couldn't have it thrown away. I ended up giving it to Lindsay and she made me a beautiful pair of socks from the unraveled sweater. That was her idea and is probably one of the sweetest gifts I have ever received.


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