Above: My grandparent’s store; my dad’s first (and only) new car; Dewey took selfies before they were a thing.
After Myra died, Jess and I (with help from several gracious friends) cleared out her apartment, donated several car loads of stuff to various thrift stores, and gave away to friends and family lots and lots of odds and ends. Here, Jess is sorting out Myra’s extensive teacup collection, five days after Mom died:
What we couldn’t face, though, were 1. The Christmas decorations, 2. Her jewelry box, and 3. Her photos. So we boxed them all up and stuck them in Jess’ basement.
Now, Jess is in the process of moving (just a block and a half from where she is now), and though this house is considerably bigger, it’s just silly to keep toting these things of Myra’s from place to place. We decided we’d better get to work, at least on the photos.
Turns out, it’s still heartbreaking to go through your mother’s belongings, even 21 months after she died.
So far, we’ve thrown away thousands of photographs. Don’t get all excited, though, becaue they weren’t pictures of you. Mom loved flowers, and took lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of photos of them. Many of these were blurry, and many more were copies she had printed to make into greeting cards. She sent, on average, about five cards a week to various folks: her sisters and brother and nieces and nephews; her friends near and far; anyone from Hendrum who happened to be sick or lonesome, as far as she knew….she’d make a card, scrawl some kind words, and send it off. I can’t even imagine how hard the Hendrum Post Office has been hit by the decline in mailings since she died.
She also made scrapbooks, often in triplicate. After Dewey died, she traveled a lot with friends from high school and college. After every trip, she’d order copies of all the pictures she’d taken, put them into as many scrapbooks as she’d had travel companions, and send out the scrapbooks.
Above: Dewey and Jack, one of their pet rabbits; Myra and Toosk, their dog; Christmas girls; me and the ‘rents.
We found thousands of snapshots from our childhood, and copies of really old photos of our great grandparents. There are two photo albums I’ve never seen before from my mom’s four years in college, including her notes for each photo: “My half of the dorm room in Dahl Hall.” We found so many slides, I don’t quite know what to do…Costco will make them digital for us, but it costs $.32 per slide. We have probably 2000 or so slides, so unless upcoming boxes of Myra’s stuff reveals a hidden $640, I’ll just have to save up for a while.
All of this nostalgia has been both nourishing and exhausting. I’m remembering times I’ve long forgotten, and learning things about my family I never knew. I have photos of almost every emotion my mother could experience, and a record of places that have since disappeared, and for all of this, I am thankful. At the same time, my heart aches with the enormity of loss. I’m tremendously thankful that my mother held on to so many pictures, and simultaneously overwhelmed with the task of curating them. It’s a lucky thing to suffer this way, I suppose.
Above: me at age 8 or so, sitting crosslegged on our picnic table next to a monarch cage my dad built. I’m eating watermelon and making a funny face, as one does.