When my mother passed away in October 1997, she was living with my sister Sharon in Palmdale, California. She was only 70 years old. Dad had passed way in 1995. There were only three of us now; Sharon, our brother George and myself.
Sharon lived in a mobile home without a garage only a storage shed for seasonal items or “extra” stuff. Before mom moved in, she had paired down her personal belongs and given away things she could no longer keep or store.
About a month after mom’s passing, the three of us worked around our schedules and finally met at Sharon’s house to sort out mom’s effects. We don’t live close to each other, so it was hard to get together at the same time.
We weren’t allowed to go into mom’s room unless she invited or asked us to get something for her. Walking into mom’s bedroom was surreal. She didn’t have much, mostly clothing and a few knick-knacks. Sharon started by opening closet doors and Mom’s dresser drawers. She pulled out items of clothing, laid them on the bed and said, “Take what you want.” We each made a pile of what we wanted to keep and started a Goodwill donation pile.
I spotted a blouse that mom frequently wore. A memory flashed through my mind of her wearing this top, smiling and getting into a car. Another memory flashed in my mind, her wearing the top while we were shopping. I put the blouse in my pile in the living room. (I keep it in one of my bottom dresser drawers, next to a sweater dad always used to wear.)
On mom’s dresser was an old, wooden, beaten-up box with a lift-off cover. She’d had the box for as long as I could remember. (It was small, only 8¾” x 6” x 2¾”.) The box had a strip of wood parquet design that ran all around the body of the box, inside and out. The parquet design carried over to the top and bottom of the cover. The cover’s handle is made of a flat piece of wood and is centered on the top.
This box has great significance for me. It reminds me of when I was a little girl and my family home was in Chicago, we were still a family unit, and not torn by divorce.
|Vanity like Mom's|
I picked up the old box and carried it out to the living room and put it with my small pile of keepsakes. Memories came flooding back to me. Growing up, Mom had a large vanity in her bedroom. It consisted of a large round mirror, four wooden drawers on each side, two shelves between the drawers, and a small chair. This wooden box was kept on the bottom shelf of the vanity. It was one of the few items we could touch, open and look through.
I remember various items she kept in there through the years. The items would change so it was fun to lift the lid and see what was new. Rosary beads, holy medals, funeral cards, and a small manicure set. After we moved to California, she kept Disneyland ride coupons, rubber banded together.
When I was talking to my sister the other day about the box, she said she didn’t know who had it or what had happened to it. I told her I had it and later sent her a photo. She too had memories of playing with the box.
I’ve kept the box in different places in my home. Not always in a prominent place — such as on a shelf in my bedroom.
In the last few weeks, my husband has been remodeling our master bedroom. Everything had to come out of the room and is now in various parts of the house. I discovered mom’s box on top of a pile of things I had placed for safekeeping. I emptied it, dusted it off, and took numerous photos from different angles.
My brother, George, has a piece of furniture that was in our family living room. My sister, Sharon, has a knick-knack that belonged to our maternal grandmother. I’m starting an inventory sheet on the various family keepsakes we each have from our family household. I want my children to know the provenance of each item and not just one day toss it away. The box has become a family heirloom.