I haven’t been writing much lately because my mom’s in town, and we’ve spent the last week cleaning out her house. She’s decided, after trying to be a “snowbird” for three years, to just give it up and move down to Florida full time. Her original plan was to keep her house up north (as retired Florida-transplants like to say) and come up here for the summers, but last year she was only here for three weeks in September. It’s obvious that she’s been sucked in to that tropical-paradise-resort-lifestyle completely. Yes, she might have a daughter and two grandchildren here in Ohio, but there’s sun and warm and water-volleyball down in FlorEEda. We all have our priorities.
guess it makes sense, when you look at it THAT way.
The garage sale at my mom’s was a reasonable success. We sold a lot of junk and made a little bit of money. Some people came back the next day to pick up things that they had left and ended up leaving with even more stuff. We got dinner and ice cream with our loot afterwards. It’s all good.
The dumpster out in front of her house is full. It’s full of old files from when mom had her business, back in the booming real-estate days of the late ’90s. It’s full of old school papers, certificates, tax returns for people who no longer pay income tax, wedding announcements, real estate contracts, lease agreements, receipts, and death notices. It’s full of newspaper clippings about my dad’s career, and full of pictures of distant family members long-since dead. There are programs from all sorts of plays, brochures for places that no longer exist, and flyers for sales from before I was born. There are manuals to appliances that have long-since quit working. There were about 2000 hours of video recorded from PBS every Saturday morning for several years in there, but some guy climbed in and fished all the tape out, proudly announcing that this would “keep him busy for a while”. (I’m glad. I hate to see things thrown out when they could otherwise be used.) (I did keep one VHS tape, which I unscrewed and took the actual tape out to crochet with. I think this will be interesting “yarn”. But don’t tell my husband, or that guy who salvaged the tapes. I think it was an episode of The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American, but I can’t be certain..)
The dumpster contains, in short, several lifetimes. As I threw piles of files and paper in, I could feel my mom’s old life – the life where she was married to my dad, and working, and raising kids, and being a girl scout leader, and baking cakes in the microwave, and wearing high heels and suit jackets – but also my old life- where I was a child hating my life and my parents and school and wishing I would die or perhaps just wake up one day somewhere else (which did happen)- both of these lives, along with all trace of my dad’s life and along with all trace of my childhood, where my kid brother and kid sister were part of my life- all of it…
… turning into trash.
So many bad memories went into that dumpster. Throwing things away meant you had to look at them first, and that you had to remember the bad along with the good (and there was plenty of good, too- don’t misunderstand). But it meant you had to remember how horrible you felt because you had funny teeth and wore glasses when none of the other kids did. It meant you had to remember feeling so awkward around the other middle school girls, because they had the “right” clothes and the “right” hair and wore makeup and listened to tapes, and you had none of those things. And even though you didn’t really care about those things then, and even though you completely understand how stupid it all was and how it is totally unimportant in the overall scheme of things now, that doesn’t change the fact that you once felt so low you got physically ill at the thought of going to school, or that you spent hours alone, crying, or that you often wished you could be put into suspended animation until you were an adult and could move away from it all.
Throwing your lifetime away is hard. It’s hard to watch all those memories dredge themselves up. But it’s also hard to watch them flung into a dirty steel dumpster. It’s painful to see that your whole family history is just a pile of papers and a few trinkets about to be carted off by a rusty, noisy truck and turned into pulp.
It’s hard to watch other people pick over things that mean something to you, because those things have your memories behind them.
It’s hard to watch your mother fling away things she once held dear, because she has moved on (even though you, obviously, have not).
It’s hard to lose the last tangible traces of your father, even though you sometimes hated him something awful (and sometimes still do).
It’s hard to see your mother letting go, knowing that she is really and truly about to be moved away instead of pretending to both of yourselves that she’s still here, even if it’s only for three weeks in September.
It’s very hard to write a cathartic blog post when your kids keep pounding on the door and asking for things, like lunch.
So after all the flinging and selling and cleaning was done, my mom and I sat down to play cards. We played a game of Hand and Foot, which she taught us during our visit down to Florida last February. It was so nice to sit and play cards with my mum. It was so nice to drink tea with her while the kids wrecked the house played on the floor next to us. I loved just relaxing and spending time together. Best of all?
I beat her.