on my nightstand next to the bed are two frames. both written in little-kid-writing, they are notes i saved from long ago. one is from My Girl and it reads, “goodnight mom” surrounded by hearts. the other is from My Boy and it has two words on it, “craig” (with a backwards g) and “mom” and has hearts filling up the rest of the notepaper. each night i see these as i wish them both, from far away, goodnight, sweet dreams, restful sleep.
i come by this threadiness honestly.
we were in florida visiting; two of the days we were there, despite bright sunlight and temperatures in the 80s, we spent in a storage unit. what was left of my parents’ belongings was packed in boxes, stacked in a unit, waiting for us to put our eyes on all of it and decide what to do with each of these things. my mom’s impulse was to keep things, especially paper. photographs and slides aside, there were files and files – some of which we will wade through later. there were boxes of mugs and baskets and trinkets, a kaleidoscope of the pieces of life, carefully packed by my sister and brother-in-law during a time of sadness, a time that was not ripe with paring down or organizing, a time that is difficult for anyone who has packed up a house. larger items were already distributed – furniture given away or passed down to the next generation. but these boxes….
i was quite sure that, even if i hadn’t seen anything in any of the boxes, i had all i needed….my treasures of my sweet momma and my poppo are tucked in close to my heart and i have physical memories of them around me in our home. they are not the high-priced treasures you might think people would save or claim. instead, they are small, meaningful, invaluable and thready things that speak to me. old calendars of my mom’s, my dad’s small rickety wooden boxes from his workbench, glasses from which my dad sipped his scotch, a flannel shirt my mom wore that matched my dad’s, a board with hooks that is wood-burned with the word “keys” and hung in our growing-up house for as long as i can remember…
spending time in the storage unit, surrounded by memories and the fading scent of my mom’s perfume and their house, i was heartened to see that i actually could go through and pare down. it gives me hope about our own basement. the real things of our past – sweet treasured memories – are not things. everyone gets meaning from and sees value in different stuff. two days in the storage unit reminded me again of that.
this time i didn’t cry. i laughed with my momma, who, no doubt, was rolling her eyes in heaven over the fact that she had saved sooo many pieces of paper…paid bills, old house contracts, warranties from appliances long gone, car receipts from several cars ago. a collection of life gone by, i know she smiled when every now and then we stumbled onto something i loved to touch….i kept the little scrap of paper that fluttered to the floor that my mom had written my full birth name on…i kept a couple calendars with my poppo’s handwriting…i kept a tiny folder of maps my mom collected in her curiosity about the changing world…i kept my dad’s brown suede cap, the one i bought him a million years ago…i kept a manila folder of letters i had written to them over the years – that my momma saved…these pieces of evidence of who they were, heirlooms of what was most important to them.
i vowed, once again, to go through, give away, sell the things in our own home that are not necessary. but those bins in the basement labeled “kirsten” and “craig”? those will stay. i will delight in going through the artwork and stories and notes and school projects from their childhood and growing up. and some day, maybe they too will see how infinitely important each of the baby steps and adult steps they have taken are to me. and maybe some of the thready treasures i have left behind will give them pause and, maybe, they will save a scrap or two, a calendar, a notebook of unpublished songs, photographs, something that reminds them of what was most important to me – the thready things that are memories of love, of family, of them.
it wasn’t sunny or 82 degrees inside the storage unit. but it was warm in a whole other way.