I will not say that my father was a hoarder, but he was an academic, an artist and a collector of books and items related to his academic, artistic and other interests. His attitude might be summarized as — why throw things away when we have an attic… a basement… a garage? When he died he left behind enough stuff to populate three yard sales a year for the first few years, and some since then.
A truly lovely and thoughtful thing that my mother is doing for her children is making an ongoing attempt to cull through our house’s half-century of accumulated items so that it does not fall so heavily on our shoulders when the time comes. To that end, she tries to help us help ourselves by asking us — each time we visit — to do some culling of our own.
“Just go through your box,” she says.
“I made you each a box.”
Here is “my box” compiled by Mom. Newspaper clippings — dean’s list and classroom citizenship awards, reading achievement certificates, poems, drawings and stories…
Beyond the fact that my peak publishing success was in elementary school, I am a struck by my mother’s diligence in tucking these items away in a semi-organized fashion so consistently, for so many years.
But, more than anything, I see the kind of life and opportunities that allowed for this collection of paperwork — and the people who made it possible–in particular, my mother. My mother used coupons at grocery store and never had a manicure — but managed our money so there were music lessons, orthodontia, and the dance classes that she drove me to and sat through week after week. There were stories at bedtime, tennis at the park. Rides to the pool and swimming lessons, nightly practice spelling tests. Day after day, in a million ways, my parents provided.
“Think about what you’ll want to pay to ship or store,” my mom says. Which is practical and good advice. I manage to prune away a few dozen math worksheets and duplicate theater programs, but I don’t get far with emptying the box.
Looking at individual items I don’t think there is anything specific I would miss if it were gone. But when I look at this collection, I see how much I’ve been loved–
–and I don’t know how to throw that away yet.