My mom died at the end of 2013. She left behind a lot of things. You could tell my mom’s life story in the things she left behind. An embroidered shawl from a trip to Mexico. Collector’s thimbles from all over the US. Wooden dolls from Okinawa. A piece of the Berlin Wall. So very many plushie bison. An actual bison hide. Photos, books, music, art, handmade quilts, binders full of notes about books she intended to write, particularly textbooks and lesson plans. Not just her own things, but things made by her mother and grandmother. My great-grandfather’s diploma. The first person in my family to ever attend college. I think he was also the first to attend high school on my maternal side, so that’s a big thing. He went to Bible College and I’ve also got his little pocket bible, which is in pieces at this point, but how do you throw something like that away? Something that has his notes in it, and was obviously something he carried with him everywhere. Even I am not so devoid of sentiment that I can just chuck it.
We gave away so much. I donated probably four totes of fabric and notions to some quilter ladies, who completed one of mom’s unfinished quilts and returned it to me with a lovely thank you attached. We donated her clothes to the Salvation Army, as they’re a non-profit and it’s very difficult to find plus-sized clothing in those kinds of stores. Mom had a lot of clothes, most of which was practically new. She pretty much lived in caftans the last year or so of her life. We took her English teacher reference books to a used book store, and actually made a bit of money off them, not per piece, but through the sheer bulk of it all.
Mom loved to crochet. She continued to buy yarn after she got to the point that she couldn’t crochet anymore. She had Dupuytren’s Contractures, which is the medical condition that turns old ladies’ hands into claws. Anyway, I still have all this yarn. So much yarn. I don’t know what she kept buying it, and I don’t know what to do with it other than use it. So, I’m crocheting and knitting things to give away in the hopes that I can get rid of some of this stuff. Is there a word for second-hand clutter?
My mom taught me a lot. She was difficult and temperamental and sometimes I hated her but I always loved her, and I miss her. It’s not a sentimental attachment to the thing she left behind, but a feeling that I missed out on some big stuff. I never got to see my mom hold my child. I don’t even have a kid and at this point, I’m thinking it’s probably never going to happen.
But, if I am ever blessed with a baby, while I’ll never see my mom hold that child, I will get to see my baby swaddled in things I’ve made from the stuff she left behind. I have fabric, and I have yarn, and I turn those materials into things mom probably would have liked, and I can tell stories to my child about its grandmother. It’s not enough, but it’s not nothing, either.