I’m pretty sure I’ve written about my mother’s stuff before – I could effortlessly write a whole book about my mother’s stuff, truth be told. She is one of those annoying women who keeps everything; who places a priceless value on each item she owns (and which she has dubbed, her ‘treasures’), from little notes my sister and I wrote to her as children, to every single card we ever gave her, to her collection of rocks, her collection of doilies, her collection of linen table cloths, her baskets, my Grammy’s sewing scissors (that no longer work), a whole bunch of carved wooden acorns (?), a unique lamp that is pretty but is no longer safe to plug in (vintage 1949), old cassettes I can no longer play but suspect include the voices of now-diseased loved ones.
I could go on and on…
When we discovered that both Mom and our step father had dementia, my sister and I had to rush to get them into a facility where they would be properly taken care of and not a danger to themselves or to one another (I should hasten to add that they are happy there, and well cared for. With the exception of the lockdowns that happen during a flu outbreak or this recent pandemic, we are free to come and go as much as we wish).
There has only been one fly in this ointment: as Mom’s memory slowly declines, she periodically becomes obsessed with ‘what we did with her stuff’. Both grown women with households of our own, my sister and I did not need or want too much of Mom’s stuff, so we only kept a few things that were truly meaningful to us. My most prized item is the wedding ring Dad gave my Mom over 60 years ago. It’s not big or particularly valuable, but I wear it every single day and always feel like Dad is nearby when I glance down at it.
My sister has far more backbone than I and far more strength of character when it comes to refusing to appease our mother’s flights of fancy regarding the incalculable value of her stuff. She keeps Mom and our step-father’s seasonal clothing and – because she lives closest – all of Mom’s paperwork. But she drew the line at doilies, wooden acorns and broken lamps.
As a result, because I am the pushover of the family and because Mom knows this full well, dementia or not, I have kept drawers full of Mom’s useless stuff. Because I promised I would. And because she regularly asks me if I still have ‘that little glass with the fools gold in it’, or ‘the little spoon I received from your Aunt ‘X’’. Her focus changes from one visit to the next so I never know what priceless treasure she might grill me about. I just know she will. I am a terrible liar and Mom knows it. If I tell her I still have the fools gold in question, she knows I am telling her the truth.
Now here is the crux of the matter: here I am, on Day-I-Don’t-Remember of social distancing during the 2020 pandemic, in my home province where we are taking the Covid 19 virus very seriously and – I did not think this could happen to an introvert (!!!) – I am bored silly.
Last night, a dear friend and I decided – via text of course; we haven’t seen one another in weeks – to challenge and motivate one another to ‘get moving’ and make better use of all this free time. She’s going to start by decluttering her room. I said I would start with all my mementoes. We will be checking in frequently to make sure neither of us gets too discouraged.
What I haven’t yet mentioned is that I am a terrible hypocrite, and very much my mother’s daughter. This morning I set up a card table and pulled everything out of my fairly neat – but bursting at the seams – ‘mementos closet’. I found little notes my kids wrote to me as children, every single card they ever gave me, some of my rock collection (you can find more rocks throughout the house though), a good number of baskets, a flashlight my Dad gave me the year he died (that no longer works), a lonely little baby sock that both of my kids wore when it was still a pair, the candles from my 40th birthday cake, a solitary shoe that my Beautiful Chrissy doll wore back in 1971, a whole bunch of miniatures for the dollhouse I started 30 years ago and have yet to complete), a bunch of old audiocassettes I can no longer play but that include the voices of our family.
I’m sure you get the point.
This last paragraph is for my kids: I have tried but I just can’t part with this stuff. The best I can do is try to have all of my ‘treasures’ in one place. When I die, they’ll at least be altogether, and you can throw them out, or symbolically burn them. If you’re feeling particularly kind, you can burn them with me when I am cremated. But while I’m alive, they are precious to me even though they are valueless to just about anyone else.
I could keep writing about this but I think I should go and call my Mom to apologise now…
Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com