Linda has been on a mission of late; to rid our house of “stuff” that hasn’t seen the light of day in years. She goes on these tangents occasionally. They’re usually brought on by anger and frustration over having to move a mountain of boxes to get at something stored deep in the bowels of the basement closet under the stairs. Or if she wants something she thinks is in the bottom container of a tall stack of containers teetering precariously in the laundry room next to the downstairs fridge. “Why do we have all this crap?” I hear her holler from the nether regions as I relax in my big upstairs living room chair with remote in hand adjusting the volume upward so she doesn’t drown out the sound of “This Old House” on TV; one of the many “how to” shows I regularly watch from a reclining position but put to no practical use in real life. I know when she’s coming upstairs because her basement allergies have set off a distractingly loud series of sneezing. When she appears at my chair and looks at me with her itchy red eyes, I hit the pause button and fully expect her to give me a much deserved arse chewing for being such an insensitive, unhelpful, lazy oaf. But, instead, she smiles and hands me some items.. things she’s salvaged from boxes destined for the Goodwill or Salvation Army; including this picture of the Keloland TV news staff in the late 80’s.
“Why are you so determined to go through these things now?” I asked. “Because I don’t want our kids to face the same situation as what we’re dealing with at mom’s.” she replied.
Mother Mary Trudeau passed away late last summer in the Alcester nursing home just a few blocks away from the house where she and Len raised 8 children. It wasn’t until after she died that her family realized just how much stuff she’d accumulated in that house over 65 years and have to decide what to do with it all. The big items like furniture and appliances weren’t a problem; they were claimed by and distributed among all the siblings and grand siblings amicably. But there was..and still are..drawers and boxes stuffed with things that Linda and her family must determine whether is trash or treasure. “It’s been physically and mentally exhausting, she says, and I’m determined to spare our kids from having to make those kinds of decisions after we’re gone.”
To be fair, I have offered to help but I think Linda knows she wouldn’t get rid of much if I did; too attached to things even though I’d forgotten they existed. I wouldn’t say I’m a candidate for “Hoarders” but the sight of some old object can trigger memories that distract me for hours; making me reluctant to let go. I am being pressured, and rightly so, to make a decision on clearing my bedroom closet which is crammed full of suits and shirts and shoes. I still have delusions that I’m going to one day lose weight and wear them all again even if they haven’t been in style for 20 years.
One of the things from Mother Mary’s house that Linda had no qualms about requesting was the ornate oak table that was used as a living room TV stand.
It will be assuming a similar place of prominence at our place. My lovely wife has finally convinced me, her old stick-in-the-mud hubby, that after 17 years, it’s time we changed the look of our little dwelling which means relocating the oak table and chairs that came from MY boyhood home. They will now be the focal point of our rarely used front room which is being converted into a formal dining room.
I’m glad we got that table when the family divvied up the Lund estate. I’m flooded with nostalgia every time I look at it.
It’s where my brothers and I all had our birthday parties. Mom would put in both leaves to make room for everybody and everything; cousins, friends, loads of food including a lamb-shaped birthday cake lovingly created by Aunt Leila and, of course, a few presents that were not to be opened until after we ate.
It was on that table where mom served up the best roast beef, ham, chicken and turkey dinners (sometimes at the same meal) ever consumed by mankind. Guests would go on and on about how delicious everything tasted while mom, with typical Norwegian humility, would reluctantly accept the complements but be sure and point out her perceived culinary shortcomings. It was at that table that my cousin Grouse and I would nearly explode from holding back laughter when dining with Uncle Conrad, who straddled a fine line between coherence and dementia for years and never failed to tell the same two jokes before every meal. Jokes that were too corny for Reader’s Digest. He’d hold up a napkin and ask, you know what they call this don’t you? Mistake Paper!..and he’d roar. So would Grouse and I but we were laughing AT..not with him. Shame on us.
It was at that table where I did my homework..although I don’t ever remember doing much homework. But it was there that mom tried desperately to drill Sunday School memory work through my thick head.
I also recall her sitting alone at that table for hours on end with her hands at the keys of an old, old typewriter. She was practicing up her long idle typing skills learned at secretarial school when in her teens, so she could help dad at his new job working for Farmer’s Mutual Insurance.
I was amazed at how fast it all came back to her.
It was at that table that dad would set up the movie projector to show the films from our latest trip to Yellowstone or Canada to invited company who’d just consumed one of mom’s big meals. Exciting as those home movies were it was tough to remain alert and awake even with my father’s stirring narration.
It’s at that table where the projector was eventually replaced with a breathing machine which kept the suffocating effects of the old man’s emphysima at bay for couple years.
It was also on that table where mom displayed all the sympathy cards received after dad gave up the fight and took his last breath.
There, now you see why Linda can’t count on this sentimental old slug to be of any use whatsoever in saying goodbye to stuff.