My sister flew out from PA to help us get Mama C's house ready for an estate sale and rental. Mom needs the extra income to help pay the rent at the assisted living facility, as well as give her some spending money.
This is the home we grew up in. These days, when I go there, I am overwhelmed by so many of the events of my younger life. Each room holds shelves with boxes full of memories. Open a box and they pour out. Some of them aren't even my memories, but the memories of my grandparents, great grandparents--any distant relative who folded them, packed them away, and moved on to some other moment of life and forgot them. As I open each box, I can only see a hint of the adventure that produced the photo or piece of paper I hold in my hand.
One box I opened had three American flags in it. Each fold had either been unfolded, or just lost their folds with the jostling of sitting in that box and being moved from room to room over the decades. Two of them had 48 stars. I refolded each as best my fading boy scout training could remember. One was so old that it had become frayed at the end that had flapped in the wind a long time ago.
I know that protocol would have a worn flag destroyed, but I new it held some unknown history in its threads. So I folded it as well.
I found one metal box and found my grandfather's "Order of Neptune" certificate, commemorating his crossing of the equator while serving in the Navy during World War I. Also, the certificate that gave my father Power of Attorney over my grandmother's affairs shortly after Grandpa died. She had MS and couldn't do much for herself. I was a third-grader during this time and I remember coming home from school sometimes and greeting my bed-ridden grandmother and one of the women from the neighborhood who would come and sit with her on days where my mother had to work.
Grandma would always smile and tell me how much she loved me and then remind me that my grandpa loved me too. He was an alcoholic. I only remember him making one cruel remark to me when he first moved in with us. I was quite young. I'm sure Grandma only meant to repair the damage.
So, how do you pack up a life?
You call a couple of older ladies, friends of your mother, and tell them they can have anything they want.
These two ladies are old friends of my mother's and came to collect some of her old arts and crafts stuff. It took them about an hour to sort out what they wanted, organize what we should sell, and throw the junk out, all the while visiting with Mom, who had come with us this day. The three of them had a grand time and accomplished more in that hour than any of us ever could in a day.
Roberta from across the street also came over to sort through some of the craftsy items. She's a nurse. She is also the neighbor who came and helped my mother 15 years ago when my dad had his coronary thrombosis. She and Mom sat in the room where Dad had collapsed years ago, looking through water color supplies. There, Roberta found buried under miscellaneous paints and notebooks several of Mom's watercolor paintings. Mom kept remarking that they weren't very good. But Roberta made it a point to show them to us and offered to frame them.
They might not be great art, but they're at least a little sacred.