One Sunflower


on June 7, 2011

“Mom, do us a favor and sort through this stuff before you die.”  These may not be the exact words but definitely the sentiment, of a comment made by my sister to my mom last summer.

Up until three years ago, my parents had been real travelers, taking annual trips for a few weeks to unusual places around the world.  But then irritating health concerns became a part of their daily lives and the idea of sitting on cramped planes without quick access to bathrooms put a halt to their dreams.

About the same time my sister made her bald request, my dad finally quit smoking.  Withdrawal from nicotine has him taking walks all day long as well as putting together jigsaw puzzles faster than they turn up at Goodwill and Value Village.  His antsy grumpiness has my mom paying heed to my sister’s challenge; she is venturing into the basement to sort through the aforementioned “stuff.”

I’ve been in my parent’s basement numerous times and I know about the yarn and the fabric and the books and the dolls, but my mom’s scrounging is revealing collections I had no knowledge of.  I remember pictures of my mom and her precious Brownie camera, she worked for her high school newspaper or year book or something, but I had no idea she had scads of books full of  photos tucked into slits on black paper.  I wonder what film and photo developing cost back in those days?

She wrote about the collection of my great-great-grandmother’s silhouettes on her blog a few weeks ago.  My sister-in-law brought over a paper expert to describe how our family can preserve them for the next generation.  Ironing them into wax paper sleeves has lasted 50 years already but it will be up to me and my siblings to decide if we want to take different steps with these fragile paper cuttings.

My mom has also unearthed letters – volumes of letters written to her mom who saved every one in its envelope in a cardboard box.  My mom is opening each one, reading some of them and placing them back to back in plastic sleeves.  She’s filled one 3 inch binder and is beginning another.

She sat with the familiar stationary in her lap and read me a letter written two days after I was born all about her birth experience.  Those were the days before men were allowed in the room so she lay on a bed in the hall of the hospital with my dad until things got more difficult.  Then she was wheeled away, given gas, and the next thing she knew, there I was.

After she read the letter, my dad stood up in the living room and told me the rest of the story – what had happened to him on the way home from the hospital that night.  He ran out of gas at midnight on the turnpike opposite the Pentagon.  He ended up flagging down a taxi driver who had to drive him quite a-ways to find an open gas station, give him money to buy a can, and the gas, and back to his car.  Then this kindly man had to follow my dad home to his wallet so he could be paid for all of his trouble!  My mom hadn’t remembered that side of the story.

I’m not sure how all of these things will be sorted out between my siblings and me but they are definitely providing fodder for walks down memory lane – and blog entries.

logo on starbucks holiday cup a few years back

7 responses to “fodder

  1. Deb Day says:

    I think you are so lucky that your mom has saved so many family memories. My mom is a thrower and there aren’t many family “heirlooms” from her side of the family. Enjoy them, savor them, find a way to keep them…

  2. Linda Baie says:

    So-I’m on the other side, with children telling me I should clean out the stuff. I loved your story, and that you’re finding things out that are good to know. And, it’s nice you’re helping too. BTW-those silhouettes are wonderful!

  3. Lisa says:

    I have a shoebox full of letters my grandmother wrote to me. About one every two years I sit down and have a good cry as I re-read them all. I will never throw them away! My daughter will have to do it for me after I am gone. Or not…I hope she will come to know my grandma through them.

  4. Stacey says:

    You make me laugh! I think I told my parents something like that about their attic a few years ago. There are lots of interesting things up there. Lately they’ve taken to transporting some of those interesting things to my basement… for my daughter to eventually have to deal with I guess.

  5. I have mixed reactions to this slice after spending too much time moving my parents out of their last house and having to be the one to decide about keeping or tossing. I have been thinking a lot lately about dejunking my life now instead of waiting for my kids to tell me to do it.

  6. Mrs. V says:

    So many treasures! I am glad that you were able to share this time with your family.

  7. Tam says:

    Oh, yes, the stories of old. I am going through the same thing, but no daughters who are taking an interested role. Hear and see what you can. It would mean a lot to your mom. Yes, purge the fluff and “things!”–I also don’t want to leave a lot for my 3 boys to decide what to do.

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