The musty smell of old fabric wafted from the partially open box as I peeked inside….one of many boxes piled on top of one another, some being crushed from the weight of others, while some threatened to topple from their high perch at any moment.
Eighty eight years of detritus from living life all over the United States and never willing to part with any of it was crammed into a storage shed, parked in my yard for the last 7 years. I had cleaned out, purged, given away, sold, donated to Goodwill, and tossed so much already, but I had yet to tackle “The Shed”. These boxes held unknown treasures that had been boxed up at least 15 years prior, having never been unpacked at the destination between the final one and ones prior. As I began digging through my history, my mothers love of fabric, yarn, sea shells and crafts reminded me of her sewing room in other places, always jammed packed with nothing but a mess in my mind, but life affirming for her. I got a glimpse of my daddy’s obsession with the sea and Florida, finding trinkets and pieces of memories he shared, always willing himself back to the ocean and sandy shores. Decisions made in haste as I was surrounded by love, friends and support made it easier to toss what I simply could no longer keep, because how can you keep it all, and even if you did keep it all, where would it go and what would you do with it. I was astounded by the sheer amount of ‘stuff’ accumulated over the years, but more so by the decision to pack it up and take it with them to wherever they were going. The last move to my yard in a mobile home still too large for the 2 of them, made it easier for me to care for their ailing mind and body in the final years, and they wanted to be surrounded by the familiar, even as they forgot the meanings of each piece.
Daddy asked me at least a hundred times where his serape was, the one he and mama bought in Mexico, and made sure it travelled with them, finding a home in each location. I simply had no idea and was physically unable to go through the hundreds of boxes piled in the shed to find it. I looked on the surface, a lift of a lid here and a glance in a clear tote there, but didn’t see it anywhere. I assured him it was out there and I’d find it….soon. I found it yesterday. Mama had created a memory book of her ancestors and wanted to look at it again in her last days. I couldn’t find it but I knew exactly which one she was talking about because I helped her create it, when scrapbooking was new again. We carefully labeled each person she still knew, crafting decorations to go with the era, and making each page a tribute.
I haven’t found it yet…..and am hoping I run across it before the shed is empty. I loaded my car with boxes of fabric for my cousin who sews, and pieces of broken buttons, pins, and scraps of jewelry because she’s the one mama created trinkets with and knows how to continue making more. Another pile and yet another pile was set aside for other cousins, photographs of them as children and young adults, times in their life shared with an aunt and uncle that documented everything with a quickly snapped picture, jotted names and dates on the back just in case I couldn’t tell who was who. Box after box began to weigh heavily on my heart and soul and I tossed things in the back of the truck for the dump run, knowing I had to let go of those memories, the ones that no one else carried and no one else knew. Pieces of fabric, shreds of paper, a scrawl of handwriting and old pictures of me. So many pictures. My mama loved to take pictures and she kept every. single. one. Daddy helped her obsession by having extras printed of each ‘just in case’. I tossed a lot of just in case in the truck. The dump run is usually reserved for my husband and child, a bonding moment I am happy to let them have, but today I needed to unload the truck and get back at it, so it was just me and my memories, headed down the 2-lane black top, through the tree lined road to the county landfill. I realized I had never been by myself and knew I’d have to do grown up stuff, backing the truck in where the attendant told me to, crawling up in the truck and unloading it.
As I tossed the trash bags onto the concrete, I felt lighter with each load being dropped….as if I were letting go of something that was weighing me down. But that changed when I finished with the bags and got to the boxes, 15 year old boxes filled with the detritus of 88 years of life lived, spilling out in abundance and glaring at me from the dirty concrete floor of a county landfill. As I tossed broken down boxes out of the truck and watched them land, splaying pieces of rotten fabric, and scraps of pictures for all to see, I had to force myself to stay in the truck and not jump down and snatch them back, holding them close one last time. One box held my wedding album, still filled with 8x10 pictures of a failed marriage, over more than 35 years ago. I had long ago abandoned those memories and didn’t need to be reminded of that time in my life…but seeing the pages blowing in the breeze of the nasty air surrounded by the garbage of others took my breath away. I let it go. I let it all go….sifting through my gloved hands and torn mind, reeling in the memories of the 56 years I spent with those two 88 year old souls, and the stuff of a life well spent surrounding me in a landfill full of trash and loss, treasures and love. with Glitter & Grace,