Or Ma, or Grandma or Gigi. Just a few names for my mother, Violet. My Mom passed away right before Thanksgiving of 2017 and I spent a long time trying to come to terms with the fact that she is no longer with me (at least in the physical sense). It wasn’t expected and there was no warning. So being that it was a shock, I spent the rest of that year and pretty much most of 2018 trying to just “do” stuff to keep from having to think about it. Relax became a four letter word to me. I didn’t allow myself to relax because the thoughts would rush back in and I’d be reminded of it all over again. There were times I would try to just be still and I couldn’t do it… it’s like I had forgotten how to even relax or enjoy a moment. I was stuck on some kind of autopilot that couldn’t stop moving. I don’t think I’ve even come to terms with it yet. Yes, I’ve accepted it because I had to. Living in denial wasn’t an option for me (even though I tried) because my Dad is still here and he needs my help now more than ever.
It’s funny that my “doing stuff” never really accomplished anything. I kept myself busy with mundane things like cleaning or running errands or work. I remember trying to read a book and my mind couldn’t even focus on any of it. One of the things that I felt I should be doing during that time was going through my Mom’s things. Downsizing. My Mom was a collector and she loved crafting and decorating. She could repurpose anything into something magazine worthy. If she found an old window frame, soon she’d have it repurposed into a wall decoration that everyone wanted! What I loved about her ability was that she saw the beauty in the broken. She could make something unwanted worthy again. Coveted even.
Part of the problem with going through my Mom’s stuff was that I just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to let her go and I wasn’t ready to get rid of her things. I felt pressure from others that it was something I should do. I knew that it would make things easier for my Dad. I mean, he doesn’t dust. He just doesn’t need so much stuff to take care of. Plus, at 86 years old, I worry
about him tripping over something and getting hurt. But ultimately, my Mom’s stuff is my Dad’s stuff. I didn’t want to make it harder for him by making that many drastic changes. Not so soon.
At the beginning of 2019, I started to feel like maybe I could start looking through her things. Like I was ready. So one day I decided to open Mom’s dresser just for the heck of it. I was a bit taken aback when I opened the drawer and her scent came out. It was such a bittersweet moment. But it didn’t paralyze me and I realized that I can do this. I would take it slow and keep my Dad in the loop with everything that I do go through.
Like I mentioned earlier, my Mom collected things. Lots and lots of things. One of her favorite things to collect were ideas. Ideas about the things she loved to do like decorate, craft, sew, repurpose, read, bake and cook. Just to name a few. She followed through on a lot of the ideas she saved. She just saw something she liked and did it. She had bins and totes full of ideas she found in magazines and catalogs. So, one day I decided to grab a bin and just sift through the items in it. And going through it helped reinforce some things I’ve always known about my Mom.
Her stuff wasn’t clutter. Not to her. She saved things she liked for many reasons. She would save a picture or illustration because it may have evoked a special memory, or maybe she was struck by the coloring, or even how it reminded her of someone or something she loved. She loved artwork, from eloquent things right down to simplistic. Photographs of nature and natural beauty were also kept. She liked how light and color played into a scene. She especially loved trees and flowers. I remember as a kid we’d have to pull over to the side of the road so my Dad could cut her some cattails or pussy willows so she could use them to decorate with. Everything had a beauty and she brought them into her life.
And babies, can’t forget the babies. She loved them and their chubby, sweet softness. She saved drawings of babies and even pudgy-kneed paper dolls. Intermingled with her clippings were things from her grandkids. I found drawings that my girls did, a note from my niece and newspaper clippings about my nephews. It was like an inadvertent time capsule.
Another thing she loved to save were words. That may sound weird but she did. She had scraps of paper where she wrote things down that she liked – quotes, poems, sayings, and even names. I found lists of names she liked for babies or even future pets. She liked the sounds of names and words and also the way a word looked. If a word was written in an especially striking font or had a lot of character – it was torn out and went into her file. She saved them for future things, like a boat she painted and needed a special name for, as an example. She liked the cleverness or sentiment of a poem. She would sometimes frame a favorite or even hang one on the fridge depending on how she was feeling at the time. It was like she was putting out to the world what she was feeling at the moment, even if she didn’t say it herself.
I’ve decided to put together a “time capsule” for each of my siblings and the grand kids. Things that pertain to them in some way or even something that I know they would like. I think it would be a nice tribute to Mom and allow them all to have a little piece of who she was. A reminder of her sweet soul. Mom used to tease that my sister and I would be stuck going through all of her stuff someday. We didn’t think it’d be so soon. But I do appreciate what I was reminded of as I looked through her things. I was reminded of her love of art and how important creativity was to her and how she used it in her own life.
So, thank you Mom. Thanks for the clutter.