After almost four years, I’ve finally done it. Pulling out all of the boxes from my little shed was a task I dreaded and loomed over my head like a Linus cloud. I guess I really just didn’t want to do it. Go through my mothers things and donate them to her charity. Not to sound as she would say, maudlin, but I knew what was in there. The emotional tugs of heart had everything to do with the fact that her DNA was in them all. In her brushes, her decorative soaps and I could smell her essence as I sprung her clothes from their cardboard prison.
So many memories of hugging her in certain outfits, knowing these were all things she touched. I wondered how long she had some this stuff. It was likely years and years. In combing through these things of hers, I found myself spending hours trying on her clothes without looking in the mirror. When I finally looked up I realized I was looking like an old lady from Boca and said bubbye, to the purple silk jump suit, wild sparkly sweaters and Half Moon Bay sweatshirts that didn’t fit anyone in the family but me. I am as small as my mother was, all except the shoes. In trying to do the right thing, I left out some soft and squishy things that still held the smell of my mother for the rest of my siblings. Just in case. As it turned out one of my sisters was very glad I had cared enough to do that.
My mother cracked me up. She was a very funny woman and her sense of humor was also beaming from all of her belongings as well. My god, how many tubes of lipstick can one woman use in a lifetime. If nothing brought me to tears this did, as I recall her quirky way of saying Estee Lauder. A funny little rewiring thing began to happen to my brain as I chided myself for my own drawer full of happy purchases that came with free gifts. Which is every girl’s secret happy place the “gift with purchase” And I realized, my children would one day do what I am doing now. My goodness, they already think me as eccentric, they say they mean it in a good way, but I can only imagine what they would say about most of the things I’ve chosen to keep. This also became painfully clear when I actually put one of my mothers sweaters on my oldest son. Bless his heart, he kept it. But it was very telling to me I really needed to rethink my approach.
Holding on with so much intention to stuff was silly. But I also realized it was an over compensation for a lack of interaction. It was time to get real with it. Front zipper robes are not my thing. Knowing my mother I don’t think they were even her favorite either. She was too glamorous for them. I remember seeing her inner glow flowing about in negligees with matching slippers. It’s strange to me now seeing only happily printed flannel nightgowns. Her glamour finally revealed itself among her purses. The woman had little purses inside of each purse that matched, from her gold evening satchel to her cigarette cases. Anything I am choosing to keep, I don’t really keep for myself, but more for my sisters and our daughters as expressions of who Grandma was. As the oldest sister I feel it my duty to find a way to keep the best of my mother alive. It’s upsetting how a person can be reduced to boxes of stuff. She is not her stuff. When you walked into any room my mother was in, you had a particular feeling like something wonderful was going to happen. She had a way of creating an atmosphere of beauty around her and an aura as if company was coming.
My mother was special and will be remembered in the hearts of her children and those who knew and loved her. Not many could ever forget a woman named Joy who lived up to her name right down to the sparkle in her eyes. Even through all of the hardship and dysfunction, my mother somehow found a way to give her children something incredible. Aside from the fact that I can’t look at a kitchen tool without thinking of her, my siblings and I have each other thanks to her. We are all expressions of her. And now I’m letting go of her belongings as legacy, even though I am thoroughly convinced she haunts them. In doing this I learned something, the legacy of letting go. Oh but I did keep the lipstick, how could I help myself…
So Mom, if you can hear me, I’m sorry it took me so long to go through your things and fulfill your wishes. It was really hard to do because I miss you so much and I hope you can forgive me. I am also so sorry for other things that you know about, just between you and me before you passed, which were unresolved. Yesterday sister found a sealed card to me you never sent. It looks like Thanksgiving. I can’t seem to open it yet…
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