In the four months since my father died, I have been dealing with his Stuff. For fifty-five years he lived in that house with my mom. They initially moved in to take care of Dad's Aunt Annie and Uncle Joe, who built the house around 1930 and died in it in 1959, within weeks of each other. Dad inherited the house and raised three sons there.
Talk about Stuff!
With Stuff dating back to Uncle Joe's childhood, cleaning out Dad's house has had aspects of an archaeological dig. I have a triage system of sorting: Stuff I'm keeping, Stuff I'm selling, Stuff I'm donating to a local history museum, and Stuff I'm trashing. I guess that's a quadage system. Whatever. It's a strange feeling to hold Stuff in my hand that I grew up with and deciding its fate in a moment. A cookie press and yellow Glasbake mixing bowl brought back childhood memories of watching Mom make Christmas cookies. I kept the bowl, trashed the press.
I hear some of you groaning,"What? Not the cookie press!" But here's the thing: you really can't keep everything, and some of what you can't keep, no one else will buy. So it's trash. Sorry, cookie press.
I was going to toss the animation from my CalArts student films - then I didn't. I know it's worthless and that my kids will someday toss it, but so be it. Sometimes, Stuff can be a trap. Mom and Dad kept so much Stuff, and I have a personal connection to so much of that Stuff, if I'm not selective my own house will be stuffed with Stuff.
But some Stuff is really cool: school books belonging to my grandfather and his brothers, with their signatures and doodles on the inside covers, dated the 1890's. Tin-type photos of these same relatives. Mom's wedding dress. Dad's navy uniform from World War II. A Japanese rifle he brought back from the Pacific. A three foot tall glass bottle blown by Mom's father, Virgil Davis. An autograph book from Mom's childhood with signatures and notes written by relatives long gone. This is Wow Stuff.
|From a school book belonging to Great-Uncle Judson. 120 years later....|
Mom would, on occasion, laugh about all of their stuff. "I feel sorry for the person who has to clean out this house when we're gone." she would say. Sometimes, in the deep quiet of that old house, I can hear her chuckling.
If you relate to this, read my earlier post, Taking Care of Dad