A couple of weeks ago my wife, Nancy, made an overnight trip to St. Louis to meet up with her sister, Gloria.
While the official purpose of the excursion was for them to do some final cleaning at their late father’s house before it goes on the market to be sold, I knew there was another reason behind the excursion. Nancy wanted the opportunity to say “goodbye” to the house that her mother and father had lived in for well over four decades.
I believe Nancy lived at that residence for less than two years, so it could be argued that her first-person attachment to the house is not all that strong. However, the two-story structure was filled to its rafters with memories of family Christmas gift openings, Thanksgiving feasts, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations, and birthday parties which all featured Nancy’s parents.
I think for Nancy the farewell was disappointing because photos have been removed, the furniture is gone, the carpet has been taken up and the walls have been painted a different color, in many ways it was as if Nancy was saying “so long” to a stranger.
From her last trip “home” Nancy did return with some final remembrances. Saved by her parents were a handful of paintings that Nancy had done when she was at least in high school, if not junior high. While Nancy was quick to note they were not great works of art, she was touched that her mom and dad had saved them through the years.
I am not sure what Nancy will do with the paintings. For now, they are resting on the floor beneath the table on which her sewing machine sits in the kitchen.
To be sure I am not complaining that Nancy brought her paintings home, or any of the other items that has migrated from St. Louis to Hannibal since her father’s passing in late October. I am well aware that we could have “inherited” much more.
The process of disposing of items at her parents’ house has reminded Nancy of just how much clutter we have in our house. Nancy has promised our children and their spouses that we will not leave them with too much to sort through. However, by my calculations, if we dispose of one box full of items each week, Nancy and I will have to live to a ripe old age in order to fulfill that pledge.
Our journey to a junk-free basement formally began a few Saturdays ago when Nancy recruited me to help her “for only an hour” to discard some items that were taking up space in the basement.
My biggest space-maker contribution during the two-plus-hour “pitching” session was the discarding of an old encyclopedia set. Around since I was a youngster, you can imagine how horribly out of date they were. An old suitcase and a cot that dates back to my days in the Boy Scouts also were bid goodbye.
The throwaway sessions did not end on that single Saturday. One recent afternoon I noticed I had not seen my bride for an extended period of time. Venturing into the basement I found Nancy sorting through a bag filled with greeting cards that had been saved through the years.
As I stood beside Nancy she pulled out a Mother’s Day card and started reading it aloud. The sender’s card cited the recipient for all the attributes you would expect a loving mother to have.
The further she read the more filled with emotion Nancy’s voice became until she could not continue. At that point she showed me the identity of the sender, which turned out to be a daughter who has not spoken to Nancy or me for approximately a decade.
Despite the fact we are now focused on discarding such mementos, I encouraged Nancy to save this particular card as a bittersweet reminder of better days.