Whisked off on her first and only airline flight with just the eighty-some years of her life which Deb could cram into one suitcase, mom was uprooted from hers and our late dad's home to live in Deb's household in what must have been the most quietly shattering day of both of their lives. Deb was the one who had to drop everything when dad and mom had emergencies, and she was the one who looked after them as dad was dying. She was the one, because she would still have her job to come back to if she left it, and she could scrape up the money to do it. She's had an altered life because of all this, a life she hadn't counted on living.
Shadow and Sugar, the two felines of mom's life were given to a lady Deb hastily found, and to this day no one knows if this person kept them, found them homes, dumped them out on their own...no one knows. Mom cried about this for years every conversation we had on the telephone. Each time I lied to her and told her they were okay, but always figured worst case scenario in their demise. It would have been great if Deb had kept mom's cats with her, but Deb was forever so coldly over-practical.
Sitting next to my husband on the flight to Reno, I wondered if Deb was right. Was I just being crazy? She said it was stuff I could live without. A year after the house sat abandoned, the new buyers agreed over the telephone to save in one of the rooms of the house everything on my hastily drawn up list. A list of what I could remember in five minutes off the top of my head that I thought was important to me. As I flew on that plane through the clouds, I worried if it all was worth the cost and trouble, but I also knew that for some reason, I needed to complete this journey.
When someone tells you it is never a good idea to revisit a place that isn't yours anymore, believe them. Floors were torn out and being replaced; all the furniture was gone, even the old art deco bedroom set that mom and dad had from the beginning of their marriage; the lovely green painted wood cabinets in the kitchen were being sloppily repainted yellow; and things I had forgotten to asked to be saved were already dumped - gone forever. Pushing away the disappointment and shock, I sat myself down into what had been mom and dad's bedroom with my load of cardboard boxes we had just purchased from the post office, the bubble wrap and shipping tape from the Wal-mart by the airport, the newspaper from the local grocery store, and began to pick, wrap, and pack into those cardboard boxes from the clutter that covered most of the floor - the clutter that represented all that was left of my life there.
Mom's neighbor from across the street bought the place - we talked, they were nice, and they left me alone most of the day even though they were constantly in and out of the house. My mind was rushing 180 miles an hour with decisions, then wrapping as fast as I could the outcome of those choices, with my husband driving the finished packages to the post office to be mailed to ourselves. A day to fly in, rent a car, and drive to my home town; a day to wrap and mail; and a day to fly out. It was insane and exhausting, poignant and exhilarating. The neighbors left for the day and time was desperately running out.
Choices had to be made - some practical, some from the heart, some better safe than sorry, some no rhyme or reason - there's never logic with emotion. Choosing what to leave behind, the rest was thrown into boxes to pack in the car to take back to the motel. When I decided to leave that room, we were alone and the sun was still above the horizon. Walking through every room in the house, closets and drawers were opened and closed, but all was empty except the kitchen. We grabbed a few things from the cupboards to add to the carload. Saddened, I welcomed the outdoors.
Scrounging around in the enclosed area that housed the graveyard of my parents rock collecting years plus dad's tool shed proved that everything had already been picked over. As a last minute thought we dragged the cover off the opening to the basement, and were surprised that all sixty some years of crap was mostly still there. Overwhelming, with so little time to dig through boxes covered with desert sand from years of sand storms, a box picked out miraculously held a little two drawer cedar chest that I recognized as mom's. Opening one of the drawers, her wedding band laid alone in it. The little chest went with me.
Under the wood steps we removed some junk and pulled out a cardboard box stuffed with old photos and sand. That went with us also. Her old trunk, I think it had originally been her mom's old trunk, was still there with all the needlework, linens, quilt tops, and saved memories of her and her mother's life. As a child, she had lovingly taken me down those steps one summer and told me the stories of everything that was packed inside that mysteriously wonderful trunk. She never would let go of any of it, no matter how hard I pleaded, and everything was still there. I was old. All those ideas I dreamed up of how to use its contents when I was young no longer existed, but most of its contents was stuffed in paper bags to take with us.
In the final moments the next morning, all unpacked treasures in our motel room were painfully placed into the dumpster before we drove away to fly back home. In less than a week all boxes arrived almost at the same time - a curious sight most likely for any mail person. Realizing that whatever would be sent to mom would never leave Debs house again, the excruciating task of deciding what not to send began. Acknowledgements don't exist with my family, so I still don't know if I chose well for mom. Some things of hers that I kept I sent to her later on. Some things of my own I kept I sent to the trash bin later on.
My little stash from that house is packed with memories. The cheap art deco vases mom bought when she was young, two quilt tops either my grandmother or one of my great aunts hand stitched, the hand sewn apron my mom always wore, an embroidered and pink ribbon batiste baby dress that was either mine or my mom's, my tiny white majorette boots, the pig cookie jar dressed as a sheriff with badge and cowboy hat that was always filled with peanut butter raisin oatmeal cookies, the bean pot mom served baked beans in, mom's fancy silver thimble and wood sock darner she used to darn the toes and heels of our socks, the piece of wood mom held onto that her dad gave to her because it reminded him of a face...
...the vintage marbles picked out of her gallon jug marble filled door stopper, her milk glass old jar collection to add onto mine that we both acquired forty years ago sifting through boxes in the back of an antique store we visited together, the crystal rabbit-daisy frosted glass toothpick holder-pink opaline toothpick holder-pair of white porcelain parakeets-gifts to her in my twenties because she never bought for herself anything she liked (these should be with mom, but they stayed with me), lots of photos-letters-writings, my youngest sister's glass insulator collection, the last felt cowboy's hat dad wore, and a quart jar of sand from the yard that was converting back to a desert.
No regrets, but I no longer think I know what life is all about. We aren't indispensable in the grand scheme of it all. It's like we're put here as window dressing. The earth doesn't require us; and bad weather, pestilence and disease seems to level the playing field quite often. Some religions teach we are the only creatures walking this earth that have souls. I find that exceedingly difficult to believe. Whether monstrous or angelic, history always has two sides to every action and reaction. The number of individuals remembered by all probably amounts to no more than .000000000001% of all that have lived, if even that. Material wealth is remarkably fragile.
Chosen to live life, we have been promised nothing. We seem to have two choices - positive/negative, but within these two choices lies an infinite numbers of levels we get to play with. Could be why our language has so many adverbs and adjectives. We're not perfect, after all, we have the capability to lie-cheat-steal on one level or another; but goodness doesn't require perfection. It just requires the choice to do it. Is there more to life than this? If you believe in fiction, there might be; if you believe in nonfiction, there might be; otherwise, I haven't the foggiest clue.