Finally, my mother agreed to let me help her clear out some of that stuff she had in storage and hadn’t used in years.
This was several years ago, and by that point, she wasn’t walking out to the outbuilding or going up or down stairs to the basement or second level of the house. Since she hadn’t used so many of her old things in so long, I’d been asking her if I could help her clear them out.
It took a couple of years to talk her into it, and when she did, this was the plan: I would bring things to her, and she would decide if they should be given to charity, thrown out or kept.
I should have had the foresight just to walk most of it to my car and some of it to her – she never would have known the difference – but I was a dutiful daughter.
On a stifling 92-degree day, I cleared the spiders and their webs from the outbuilding door. By the time I got inside the stuffy outbuilding I was dripping in sweat. I reached up for the first box and was showered by scrambling earwigs. By the time I made it back to the house dust, dead bug parts and a few squirming live earwigs were stuck to me.
I opened the heavy box in front of her. It contained an assortment of flower pots.
“Keep those. Keep those. Those are good. I might need those in the spring,” said the woman who had not picked up a trowel nor run her fingers through soil in several years. “Put them back.”
Next, the antique doll parts. For a spell she had been constructing porcelain dolls and making their outfits.
“Oh! I forgot about those,” she exclaimed in delight. “Put them over there. I’ll need them.”
Then came the box of the brown and burgundy gingham and wooden Christmas ornaments she used for a couple of years on a straw Christmas tree. “Oh!” she exclaimed in shocked disappointment. “Mice have gotten into them! They’re ruined! Now what will we put on that tree?” She had a few themed Christmas trees but in recent years the only tree that had gone up was whatever I decorated in the corner of the room where she spent most of her time anymore.
She let me haul those to the curb. Back in the outbuilding, I swept up the remnants of the disintegrated straw tree to be able to reach the next thing.
It was the red cardinals, glass bells and silver garlands for one of the other Christmas trees that hadn’t seen the light of day in years.
“We need those!” she exclaimed. Fresh from the glory of one throwaway, I was stung.
Camping gear: “Put that back. That stuff is good.”
Old patio furniture: “All that needs is a fresh coat of paint.”
Punch bowl and cups: “That would be nice to use at Christmas. Put that over there.”
Pasta maker: “Oh, I forgot I had that. Fresh spaghetti would be good,” said the woman who no longer cooked anything involving more than two steps. “Put that on the kitchen table for now until we decide what to do with it.”
After three weekends of that, the outcome was a couple of bags sent to the trash, and several piles of boxes in the house that, before the project had begun, had been tidy.
The outbuilding, upper level and basement remain full. After Mom passed away, my stepfather let me empty out some of the stuff. Then he passed away. Finally, the new woman who had made his final days happy has offered for my sister and me to go to the house to get whatever of Mom’s stuff we want.
That’s where we are headed this weekend. Finally, I’ll get that box of pots and the red-glass-silver Christmas decorations and the camping gear and the patio furniture out of the outbuilding.
Or maybe I’ll just get that big box of old family photos and Mom’s recipe box, and leave the rest for that other lady to deal with.