THE THINGS SHE KEPT, THE THINGS THAT SHE LET GO

The things she kept were mostly free—rubber bands and plastic bags,

Envelopes from the mail, which could be torn open to use for making lists

Or notes to the children regarding their chores while she was at work.

She kept string which was easier to come by back then, unlike now when

No one ever has a ball of string; she kept and reused aluminum foil that was

Still perfectly good; she was a child of the Depression and knew better

Than to waste anything.

She kept margarine and cool whip tubs to keep leftovers in, and bread wrappers

That you could pack a lunch into. She kept all plastic bags and soon had an enormous

Collection of them. She found she could use plastic bags to pack around things she was

Mailing to one of her children. She saved all boxes, of course, because you never knew

When you might need a box. And newspapers—she saved all old newspapers until there

Was a huge stack in the garage and when the garage floor got wet in a big storm, the

Newspapers soaked up a lot of the water but became musty smelling and she was forced

To throw them all away. She quickly started a new collection of old newspapers.

She kept empty lipstick tubes to the bafflement of her daughters who could think of no

logical Re-use of these items. She did not consider herself a hoarder; she was frugal. She

remembered what it was like, to go without.

She kept her sons’ comic books and baseball cards. She refused to let a grandchild have

any of them.

She kept, in her heart, a lot of resentment and anger to all of those who slighted her—her

husband, her children, her siblings and her in-laws. She often let people know, she would

never forget how they  treated her.

What she let go – she was able to let go of relationships, of people she no longer wanted

in her life. She could, it was discovered, burn decades of negatives, not considering there

might be any value to them. She would burn the comic books and baseball cards—she

was letting go of all these  things taking up space in her basement. She never considered

that any of these things belonged to one of her children. If it was under her roof, she was

entitled to do what she wanted with those things. It was a painful lesson for her children.

Towards the end of her life, there was little to show that a woman lived in that shell of a body. Photographs reveal an emptiness in those green eyes. She had Alzheimer’s and no longer remembered any of the resentments towards other people. (she DID forget how they treated her). In the end it had all been let go.

–Sandra Lee Smith/my mother, Viola Beckman Schmidt, July 28, 2012

 

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