Everyone has baggage… The kind you travel with from here to there is a metaphor of sorts of the greater baggage, not necessarily all bad, that we mosey through our lives with. Having had pieces of the physical estates of my grandparents, first husband, father, small urgent offerings from my former mother-in-law, and now, while still feisty as can be, my mother, land in my care in the last 5 years, I am intimate with what’s in my families luggage.
This began with my first husband’s passing. I was astonished that my children only wanted certain items of their dad’s. It’s a generational thing. The kids are not as sentimental as I am and, our children live lighter than we do, as we live lighter than our parents. Think console TV’s to flat screens to iPads. My girls very generously asked me if I’d like certain pieces, which having lived with from 18-35, I accepted with gratitude.
My uncle, executor of my grandparents estate, called to ask, some time after my first husband passed, if I’d like my grandmother’s cedar trunk. I leapt! I asked for her lamp, if no one else wanted it. Three days later, 6 fruit boxes of nicnacks were left on our walkway. The trunk and lamp were left at my parent’s mainland house for me to gather. That’s a lot of cubic in the nicknack department. It was really hard to let go of anything, yet I didn’t need 192 additional objects in my house. I emailed my half-sisters… They took a load off my mind and shelving. I donated some, and kept some. The trunk sits at the end of our bed, and the lamp is in our sitting room.
When my father entered the hospital, I knew I needed make some command decisions, some of which are memorialized in this blog. The biggest and most urgent one, the day mom and I returned to the Island to water plants and pay bills when dad was hospitalized, was to remove the .22 1957 Rugar sitting on a shelf. Eventually, all the guns (now in safes), legal papers, expired anything, especially medications… Now that mom is in assisted living that anti has been upped to an entire house. There are three ways I’ve been able to get through this process: I have context for the art in the house, my mom has dementia, and my dad was an auction rat.
While I may not know the value of all the art, I know it’s art, and know whether it can go to (climate controlled) storage or needs to find a place at our house (baskets, Navajo rugs, ceramics, etc).
When going through things of my mom’s, particularly in the mainland house, I ask myself again and again, “Does she know this exists?” She’s been in that house, literally, 6 times in the last 2.5 years. This allowed me to donate lots and lots of things that she doesn’t remember, and if she were to return to her Island home, there’d be no room for. This has also helped me begin to edit mom’s electronic baggage as well. There is no point keeping sent messages from 12 year-old editing jobs. It just doesn’t matter anymore.
My dad had more tools, drill bits, pieces of hardware, and gizmos than you’ve ever seen outside of a hardware store, and even then the hardware store doesn’t carry all those tools. My son-in-law adopted lots of tools. My husband adopted the oak card catalog system and its varied contents, and some item have sold. It’s helped me let go knowing that my father, much to my mom’s distress, was an auction rat. He Loved going to auction and buying cool and unusual things. Kinda like I buy fabric… Many of these items weren’t precious, they were ‘finds, or ‘deals.’ My only hope is that new owners will enjoy using dad’s tools and toys. Just yesterday I was able to sell a wide format photographic Autolab (think one-hour film development) to a guy who is actually going to use the machine! Did my heart good.
This collective experience, while ongoing, continues to keep us mindful of our own baggage, collections, and nicknacks, except fabric, and books.