In a retirement community such as the one I live in (but would leave in a New York minute) is to understand the natural progression of events when someone dies or leaves their home for the last time for a nursing home. Estate sales are big business out here. Adult children who often live hundreds of miles away go through their parents’ things, take what they want, and hire one of several companies to dispose of the rest so the house can be sold. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, signs dot the roads advertising such sales.
While I understand the necessity for such clearing out, something about picking through someone else’s home and life leaves me cold. When I first arrived, I did buy a large china cabinet at such a sale because I needed it desperately--to house the china and Fostoria belonging to my mother and my grandmother and would never have thought of selling to strangers. After that, I reflected on the whole sad business and swore off.
I did make one more purchase--a small double-keyboard organ from my across-the-street neighbor’s home. I didn’t go to the sale but rather heard it was going for half-price on the final day of the sale--and I walked over to look at it. For twenty-five dollars, I re-homed it and think the sweet lady who’d never play it again would be glad to know it hadn’t traveled far and would be loved.
Thinking of strangers pawing through my things some far day hence bothers me. To that end I’ve shared out much of what I’ve cared for all these years with my daughters-in-law. Other items have numbers stuck to the bottom, and a corresponding list tells the history of each keepsake and even designates it for someone. Beyond that, I can’t control what happens to each precious memory--only hope it doesn’t go to a stranger for whom it has no meaning.
But the motivation for this blog came from an unsettling experience this morning when I loaded my car and drove to the recycling center. After I’d disposed of everything in the proper bin, I was getting back into my car when my eye caught something gleaming on the edge of the huge metal bin designated for recycling metal items.
Immediately I thought of my own baby shoes which sit atop my grandmother’s china cabinet (circa 1903). In an era of non-political correctness, they share the base with an ashtray. Years later, I had my oldest son’s first walking shoes bronzed for his daddy, but a picture frame replaced the ashtray! (The youngest son’s shoes are still packed away somewhere--perhaps by the time he’s 50 I’ll get around to having his bronzed!)
Whose baby shoes were abandoned on the edge of the dumpster? Whose little feet took their first steps encased in their soft leather? What mother wanted them to remain a forever-memory? Did they occupy a special place in someone’s home? Where is the mother now--and where is her obviously much-loved child? More to the point, who carelessly tossed them aside with unfeeling hand and heart?
Seeing them there, destined for destruction, hurt my heart this morning and made me think again of all the memories I want to pass on to my children and grandchildren. Memories abandoned are lost forever. I don’t want mine to be so.