It’s my birthday. Y’all know how much I love birthdays. Forty-one isn’t anything all that impressive. It’s not a milestone birthday by any means. It’s still my birthday.
This week, My brothers and I have had the distinct pleasure of cleaning out Mom’s house. It’s been sitting vacant since she died. It was frozen in time. Her shoes sat where she last removed them, her toothbrush on the bathroom counter. A bowl, complete with spoon, was in the sink, covered in cobwebs. You could tell where she stood the last time she changed into her nightgown. Her favorite blanket was in her spot on the couch.
She also had a lot of stuff. There were piles of unopened mail. Bags and bags of clothing filled the extra bedrooms. Old report cards, long abandoned collections of things, wrapping paper, photos, and who knows what else filled the rooms. She wouldn’t have qualified to be on one of those hoarding shows on TV, but it was close.
Her basement flooded last week. We didn’t know this was a regular thing, but it was. Imagine all that stuff I described, and more, in the basement, now wet from a leak.
I could get mad at Mom for leaving us with a mess. Mostly, though, I felt sad that she lived the way she did. We’ll never really know why she kept to herself all those years, hiding memories in boxes.
We’re trying to sell the house, so it had to be emptied. We went over a few times, going through pictures and reminiscing. We reboxed her wedding china and crystal. We got the old Victrola and antique furniture. My brothers found their Barry Bonds rookie card, and my favorite Jessica McClintock dress with the big white bow on the back was well-preserved in the attic. I have every single Garbage Pail kid. We grabbed a few other things that could be salvaged. We got really overwhelmed. We hired help.
What would’ve taken us two months took these guys two days and six trucks. Six. Trucks. Y’all. Before these guys showed up to help, we’d stop and look through piles. Sometimes we’d find things, sometimes we’d roll our eyes. Our reinforcements carried it all out quickly. They assured us it wasn’t the worst they’d seen. They brought us stacks of photos before disposal. We glanced through, one more time, but there are only so many needed copies of Olan Mills portraits. Never fear, we saved some.
As much as we are ready to get rid of this house, a house that holds very few memories for our family, it was a sad process. We watched so much of our lives get tossed into a dump truck.
“Should we be saving that?”
Sure, we could’ve saved a lot more. We had to stop. We would’ve been there all year. Instead, thanks to some hard-working helpers, we finished Tuesday.
I’m thankful for my brothers. Dealing with the house would’ve been so much harder without our band of three. I’m thankful for Mom. I’m thankful for the time we had together and the memories that remain. Carrying that last box out of her house today brought everything back around, full circle, on my birthday.
I’m also thankful for this big glass of wine, looking especially lovely in my grandmother’s crystal. Happy day to me! Cheers!