Thursday, June 7, 2012

Long Day

Today, I went back to my mother's house for the first time since she died. My sister and I went through the house room by room, selecting what we wanted from it. The things that I wanted were mostly things that I'd give to my parents over the years, a cuckoo clock, a picture, a bronze sundial from the garden, silverware that matched my own. The exception was the music box which my father had given to my mother when I was 18. Because of the memories, I wanted that music box. We agreed that we would put our names in a container, and that my uncle would pick. With my sister on the phone, he drew the name and it was mine. I was in the other room. I just couldn't bear to be there, in case it was not my name drawn, and I embarrass myself by bursting into tears or something. My sister Anna burst into the room with her arms wide to tell me that I'd gotten it. I took it to the car, and I am looking at it now.

After that, we went through the rooms, and we reminisced, and we talked. I took a rocking chair. I took a small table that my father had made. One of my parents' year books from highschool. Christmas ornaments for the grandchildren to each have one. Room by room, we searched and made discoveries. I found my mother's typewriter from her highschool days, an old Smith Corona. I remembered typing on that as a small child learning my letters. It was a great treat to play with that typewriter. I took that too. There was no rhyme or reason to my taking. I saw things, and I remembered them, and sometimes they stirred memories that I could not walk away from. I imagine that it was the same for my sister. We were careful to leave the plenty of memories behind for the siblings that were not there, and we tried to replace everything neatly so as not to create conflict.

One of the things we found in the basement was my grandparent's old percolator. It was old and elegant looking, with sheathes of wheat etched up the side, and a daintily curved spout. I took that too, and brought it home. I was glad to find that it still worked.

I forgot what a friendly sound a percolator makes, and the sound of it reminded me of being a child drowsy and half awake in my bed, listening to the Chapel of the Air, an early morning radio program with a preacher who preached about hell a lot. (My father said it was because he liked to swear, and being a preacher that was the only damn way he could get away with it.) My mother would sing along with the hymns and get my father's lunch packed and make his breakfast. All these years later, I remembered the hiss and burp of their percolator. Now I have one of my own. I polished it in a dreamlike way, remembering other mornings, and imagining mornings yet to come.

It's been a long day. It was not as emotional as I expected, but still it was strange to open cupboards and see things there that my mother had bought, and did not live long enough to use. It was hard to see their clothes, things that they had used or loved. And when the two of us walked out of that house with our husbands, after five hours of remembering, we shut the door behind us, and both of us knew that we were closing that door for the last time. We went out to eat, we hugged in the parking lot, and then my parents' things went in two different directions.

Now that I am home, and I have begun to fit these things into my own home, they look like they have been there always, and in a way, I suppose they have. They have been in a home that was once my home, and now they are in my home once again.


Scotty said...

Lovely post, Debby.

*wipes a tear from his eye*

A Novel Woman said...

Very sweet post, Debby.

Kelly said...

Is the typewriter a manual? I still have our old Smith-Corona electric, but I learned to type at school on a manual. There's still one at my church and I love to use it!

Bill of Wasilla said...

I wanted one thing from my parent's house - the model B-24 bomber with the five-and-half foot wingspan that my dad worked on off and on for my whole life. He gave it to me, too. My brother lives in their house. Several times, he has said he is going to have it professional packed and shipped to Alaska, but I will either have to go down there, spend a few days and get it done or I will never see it.

It really hurts to be in that house. I did not grow up there, but I saw my parents purchase it brand new and make a life there and now it is my brother's house and it just hurts to be there. In fact, it hurts to be in the Salt Lake Valley, or anywhere in Northern Utah.

BUSH BABE said...

Parents and their stuff holds a certain spell, don't they? Loved this post Debby...

Debby said...

Yes, Kelly. It is an old manual typewriter. I look forward to one day letting William learn his letters on it. There is something very comforting about the clackety clack of an old manual typewriter, just as comforting as the burp and hiss of an old perculator.

Cowgirl Cin said...

I just took my grandma to a nursing home (alzheimer's) for my mom and my aunt today. They couldn't do it alone. They took her things to the room without her knowing it. I took her to breakfast and then to her new home. She was NOT happy. My aunt bustled around to trying to make her happy. My mom stood in the hallway stuffing tears. I helped get everyone gathered up and out the door, so the nurses could help my grandma calm down and adjust. They are going through her things at her house just like you described. I hope they find solace in the process. I am grateful my parents have their plan and it is in writing. I dread the day! Thank you for sharing so deeply. It is comforting to read your blog.

quid said...

Why did I need to take my mom's bifocals as I left her house for the last time (my brother and sister in law, thank goodness, packed and saved for us all)? I don't know why those struck me (I got photos and other mementos as well), but I can tell you, 29 years after her is the anniversary, exactly what drawer in my dresser those glasses still reside.

Just something that was that close to her...each and every day.