Yesterday, I knelt on my grandmother’s bedroom floor, tucking a pile of her belongings into boxes. I only pilfered a few things, like an old umbrella that has survived decades, from the looks of it, and four marble eggs made in Italy. While I folded her coats and stuffed scarves into the cardboard boxes, my sister proclaimed, “I am going straight home and cleaning out my closets!” And I said, “Yes, because this is what it comes down to. People rifling through your things and wondering why you kept them.”
My grandma kept old calendars. I don’t know why, since they had no notes written in them. Probably for the pictures.
I keep old calendars because I like to go back and read the notes. When my twins were young, I’d scrawl down funny things they’d said so I could remember.
My grandma kept old keys. My mother gave me a skeleton key she found in a drawer at Grandma’s, thinking it might be to the old Singer sewing machine that Grandma gave me. (It wasn’t.)
I keep old keys. It just seems wrong to throw them away, even when they’re from the front door of the house we no longer own in Marysville.
She’s only been gone a few weeks, but already we are moving along, moving the remnants of her out of that house as quickly as possible so the house can be sold.
I think of the top drawer of my white dresser, the one I bought for $15.00 at a garage sale. I spent weeks stripping paint, sanding, priming and painting that dresser. The materials cost $75.00.
The top drawer is jammed packed with weird stuff that has no other home and sentimental things like cards. There might even be a dried-up umbilical cord stump in there, nestled next to a collection of foreign coins. And speaking of coins, whatever happened to silver dollars? My dad used to have a silver dollar or a fifty cents piece jangling in his pocket from time to time.
My storage room is piled with crazy stuff that doesn’t fit anywhere else. If I had a spare day, I could deal with the mess. I actually like sorting, purging and organizing . . . but I don’t have time. And my daughter, who comes by her packrat tendences honestly, will want to keep everything she sees, even the plastic baby toys hidden in large tubs.
Packing away a dead person’s belongings puts life into perspective. You really can’t take any of it with you–no would you want to, I’d think, if given a choice.
Today, I spent the afternoon digging in my front yard, trimming branches off hedges in the side yard, washing the patio with the hose in the back yard. The temperature reached 80 degrees and my daughter appeared in her Dora the Explorer swimsuit. My husband cooked dinner using his George Foreman grill. My teenagers used sharp implements to cut branches and hedges and I ended up being the only one with a cut (on my pinkie, from trying to catch the saw when I lost my grip).
The tulips prepare to bloom. The wasps buzz in and out of a hole near the front door. The leaves unfold like tiny green fans. And the stenciled walls at my grandmother’s house are hidden underneath a coat of fresh, white paint.