Learning Along the Way

The sisters (mine and my mother's) are going through the contents of my late mother's condo. Naturally its tough going but I am finding while we do it some interesting thoughts and observations are coming to mind.

(...a bit of background...rather than sorting through things geographically i.e. all the kitchen stuff then on to the living room etc., we're going about it by laying out like items (figurines or craft supplies for example) and then alternating turns, each choose one until the items are gone or everyone says "I'm out" then the remainder are collected for the grandchildren to consider or are packed up to go to charity.

We often laugh in recognition of the fact that if males were involved in this exercise we'd not be able to linger over mom's things as we are. But there aren't any guys and it feels like its the right way to proceed even though at times its utterly draining.)

Some of the things I find coming to mind... 
  • As the eldest, my childhood memories are quite distinct from those of my younger siblings. They see  coveted objects they weren't allowed to touch because of delicacy or value. I remember my responsibilities to keep things safe from rambunctious play in the house as I was routinely left "in charge". 
  • 'Seems I have a thing for squares.  When mom's watches were  laid out on a table. Those she bought all have circular faces. Those I purchased myself or on behalf of all of us were rectangular.  When it came to dividing up serving platters and dishes or vases; straight sided ones consistently ended up in my pile without me realizing that was how I was choosing. Interesting!
  • The items I select are generally free of colour and very practical - again without purposefully trying to do so. My sisters are drawn to ornamental/ colourful things. There is very little overlap in interest in one item or another. (Thank goodness!)
  • We're spread out along a spectrum of sorts with increasing age accompanied by a proportional decline in wanting to have/keep/own stuff. This isn't evident as we go through things but at the end of each day the youngest has more trips to the car than the next oldest and so on.  Once home, each of us has to accommodate the newly arriving mementos. My youngest sister's process is largely reorganization, those of us in the middle are purging stuff, me, to a larger degree than my next sister but my Aunt, the senior member of the group, who takes the least stuff home had purged the most from her place.
  • My mother wore good quality, classic clothes. She took care of them and accessorized her outfits to perfection. Hence she left behind a wardrobe we feel we need to carefully consider. She always said I had a narrow back and shoulders and my shorter, more visually petite sister, just the opposite. Meanwhile my mother seemed microscopic beside any of us. As we have tried on her coats and jackets it is shocking to see just how right she was, along with the fact some of her things, that fit her beautifully are too big for any of us! She had a good eye!
  • Speaking of her eyes, she wore very strong prescription glasses from the time she was three years old. She put them on every day the moment she woke up - we never saw her without them.  That being said, as my exhaustive efforts of pouring over many decades of family photos bore out, the woman never, ever had them on when she had her picture taken. EVER.  Even as a young child, sometimes you can see them in her hand but usually she has them behind her back so they aren't even in view.  She did not "see" herself with glasses even though you might think we would see her glasses as a natural extension of her but no..none of us feel any attachment to the many pairs of glasses she had.  They have no meaning to any of us. We must have internalized her view of them rather than developing our own.
Each time we get together one of us brings some home baked goody to keep us going, we make lots of coffee and do our best.  Sometimes the coffee and treats give way to a glass of wine (or two!) Numerous boxes of tissue throughout the place helps! We're getting the job done and I find I'm learning a bit about myself and my family along the way.


Sandra said...

this is something we all have to face at one point in our lives. I helped my Mom with my Dad's stuff, and eventually my brother and I will have to do the same with her stuff. But she's like your Aunt -she's already pared down so much! It's really the big things - antiques and such that we will deal with, and we pretty much are in agreement on things. My in-laws are another story - 5 kids, some analytical, some emotional. That will be a chore for them!

Brendaknits said...

Despite the reason for being together, it seems like a time to treasure. I too find it interesting that raised in the same household as my sisters, we have totally different memories of what took place there.

Mary Keenan said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your mother!! I've been so busy I missed a bunch of posts here, only reading the one about your son's charming Christmas gift - and then last night I suddenly thought of you and wondered how your mother was doing. And now I know. We lost an important elder last summer after six months of watching him waste away in hospital and while I don't envy you your Christmas I am SO happy for you that you were able to be with her when she passed, that she passed peacefully, and as you say - living her life to the last. If it's time, it's such a gift to have it be that kind of time. And it's wonderful to hear the estate is clearing up well too!