The memories that come while grieving can cut like knives-no matter their beauty or how deeply cherished they are. Dividing up her life, their lives, their own memories among us is both loving and painful. They live on through the stories attached to these mementos. But each new item I pick up to sort out renews the realization that she is gone, that my childhood home is going to be gone and in someone else’s hands, making some other family’s history and memories.
It’s strange to think of other people living there, repainting, remodeling, refurnishing and changing it. Loving this home that I have loved. Knowing that they cannot see or experience it through the same lens. Those daffodils by the creek, the clover and violets and strawberries. That tree whose roots made a perfect seat that placed me right in the middle of the creek but not yet in the water so I could have the perfect vantage point to watch the tiny little fish dart in and out of the shadows underneath. And there is that play of light on the rain-washed driveway at night, not to mention the particular scent of the fresh rain on new grass–it won’t smell that way anywhere else.
For now, for me, memories and stories are intertwined with objects and places. I truly believed, going into this process of sorting through and cleaning out my grandparents’ house with my family, that I wanted no more than ten or twelve special items. Now, I cannot believe how many odds and ends I have picked up and been unable to put down. None of it really would have much, if any value to anyone else. But all of it is priceless to me, at least for the time being. These simple and ordinary things hold dozens, maybe hundreds of memories and stories. Some of them I don’t remember until I touch or hold the item. Many come rushing back to me just standing in a given room or outside in the yard. I fear forgetting even one of them when I can no longer visit my childhood home. I am afraid of losing them, like losing old friends.
The joys and sorrows alike are all parts of how I became me, of how we all grew as a family. Leaving home now feels like cutting away a safety net that has always given me the courage and confidence to run across tight ropes and fly on the trapeze in my life’s strange little creative circus. It’s terrifying in many ways. A new adventure in other ways. I hope to hold each object up to the light like a little crystal ball and write down the visions I see there. Perhaps in this way, I will preserve the memories so I can let go of the ‘stuff’. Most of the stuff. Some of the stuff.