My mom is selling her home. Our family moved to the house on Collins Road in 1989. I know this move, while she has found a home she loves, is not easy on my mother. Her pain is almost palpable, and I sense that she is having difficulty leaving the memories behind. We did a lot of growing up in that house, all of us together, under one roof. And, now as we are spread across the state of Ohio, the house has served as our central gathering place. But, I know her real pain comes from parting with many of her "collections" that she has accumulated over the years. Her collections wouldn't be recognized on eBay or at a flea market as having monetary value, but to her are worth more than any amount could buy.
Sifting through 20+ years of possessions is not an easy task. My brother rented a dumpster and prepared himself to hold my mother's hand as she sorted through years of accumulation. He knew the basement was filled with remnants of childhoods past that would need to go directly to the trash. The basement had flooded multiple times over the years, leaving behind a musty, basement-y smell. While unpleasant to others, it was a smell I grew up with, a smell that brought back years of hanging in our basement with friends, shooting pool, playing music. The basement held so many memories for me, as my mom always welcomed friends to our house.
During the big purge, my brother had to tell my mom repeatedly, "Just pitch it. Its old/stinky/unrecognizable/replaceable." All weekend, my brother and mother texted pictures of the past, of discarded sticker books, my old Cabbage Patch dolls, formal dresses I had worn, and boxes of miscellaneous memories. Images of years past came flooding back each time my phone chimed to indicate a new text. I talked to my mom a few times during the ordeal, and you could tell she was hurting. No matter how many times I tried to tell her that the objects are just the physical embodiment of the memories, she was struggling. Being the sentimentalist she is, my mom sniffled, and I knew this task cut her deeply.
When she came to my house yesterday, she had a bag for me. Somehow she managed to sort through my "junk" and determine what she thought held the most meaning for me. Each one, she pulled lovingly out of the bag and told me its story. Her eyes glimmered with recognition and pride. My old porcelain tea set that Karrie and I would fill with water (Karrie has the other half). The rose decorated ceramic Bible painted with the Lord's Prayer I used to read in her room when I was sent there in trouble. A trivet I made in 6th grade shop, crooked and wonky that she has used religiously since then. An original Garbage Pail Kid of Jelly Kelly. A porcelain clown I bought her once from a Santa Shop in elementary school. A Cabbage Patch resin statue of a girl with glasses atop a stack of books. The sleeper and blanket my grandma lovingly knitted for me, her first grandchild, in yellow and green (they didn't have ultrasound back then). The champagne flutes my husband and I toasted with on our wedding day (also used by my brother and his wife as their "something borrowed"). Goosebumps ran up and down my arms, recalling the times we shared as a family. I looked up at her as I sifted through my treasures, and her eyes were shining. Maybe with tears or joy or remembrance, who knows, but we shared a moment over a bag of objects that held many memories of my childhood.
I used to call my mom a hoarder. Now, I see her as a collector. A collector of memories, a collector of love, and a collector of family. She did not save the piles of possessions in her basement for her own joy and pleasure, but she saved those objects to help connect my family back to where we came from and help us figure out where we are going. A bag of old junk was our bag of treasures.