I am about to embark on what I hope is the last trip “up home” to help sort through my inheritance from my mother. She loved — or detested — my sister and me equally because she left her big house and all its contents to us jointly.
Because neither of us can afford to keep that house, we made the reluctant decision to sell it. And because my mother had filled all 18 rooms with the various things she’d kept or collected in her lifetime, we’ve set an auction date in August for a great big sale.
July 4 is the cutoff for getting what we want out before the auction guys come in to start sorting and organizing. With time bearing down on us, one of the grandgirls is spending the week with her auntie to help with the project.
I’m going up Friday with whoever I can convince to go with me to put in a non-stop day on Saturday and bring the grandgirl home with me.
It’s going to be a bittersweet day. As we’ve cleared out and cleaned up, things have left the house and it’s become less and less our mother’s home. We’ve been brought both to tears and laughter over things we’ve found even as we lament how long the process is taking.
Yet I know that when I leave this time, it’s done. The place becomes just a three-story structure containing things other people will buy to use or enjoy.
I’ve rented a storage unit that contains the large things I’m bringing to my house. The side board from her dining room is one; so is the desk she used for her telephone center that will be the centerpiece of the study I’m creating in what used to be the spare bedroom.
I’ve brought home pieces of family memorabilia, photos from my earlier years, books of music and other treasures that no one else would probably want. Yet the amount that remains is immense.
I’ll go back to her upstairs kitchen, which had become a jam-packed storage room, and work my way through the boxes she left behind. My sister will do the same thing in the other room that held Mother’s papers and other most important things.
As we part, my sister and I will do the hug thing. We’ll lock the door and walk away, down the familiar chipped steps and cracked sidewalk to our cars.
Living close, she’ll be there to meet with the auctioneers and greet people during the two planned open houses before the sale. Thanks to life and my schedule, I don’t expect to be back before the sale takes place.
Saying goodbye to my mother was hard. Even knowing she’d died the way she wanted and that she was prepared to leave this life whenever she was called, it was tough.
What’s coming next may be even harder. I was reminded of her vibrant personality and enthusiasm for life with every box I opened and every saved greeting card I glanced over.
Her never-changing smile in the pictures that spanned her life, the handwriting that never became old-ladyish, the old daybooks with her notations of birthdays and lunch dates all added to the feeling that she’s not really gone.
And I know that she isn’t, not as long as she remains in our memories and our hearts. But that’s so terribly different from knowing that the things I’ve been touching she also touched, that tiny mother and child link that will be severed.
I only hope that in their new lives, those things she cherished will provide new joy and new memories for other families, whoever they may be.
CATHIE SHAFFER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org