chocolate is a verb

colors, flavors, whims and other growing things

what was left…

RoyliesThree years after my father died, my mother, at 88, told me one day that she was feeling ‘isolated’ in the house and was ready to move. I still count that day as a blessing — not having to move her against her will — and we hastened to find her an aerie, as she wished, near the beach.

From her accumulated “stuff” and her 50 years in the house, we chose the few things that would go with her to furnish the remaining years of her life, though she seemed content to think of it as packing for an adventure, a vacation (she referred to her assisted living residence as “this hotel”).

That she was willing to depart with so little, or part with so much, was surprising to me; Dorothy had cared obsessively for her possessions and spoken with regret and longing of the things her mother had given away, the things she didn’t have but might have added to her collection if her own mother hadn’t been so cavalier.

What was left, and there was a lot, was my problem now. I felt some urgency to be done with it and my grandmother’s cavalier spirit inhabited me as I flung things into piles — Giveaway, Sell, Keep.

Once the house was stripped of Giveaway and Keep, I set out everything else and invited family, friends and neighbors for a private two-day sale. This was a hard decision, as my father had philosophically refused to sell his sculpture (giving it away at every opportunity) and I was reluctant to betray his belief.

Nothing was priced. The rules were: select what you want, decide what you want to pay and choose your payee. Checks could be made payable to TreePeople (my father’s long-time volunteer pursuit), Santa Monica College Emeritus program (where my mother had taken many classes) or directly to Dorothy. My friend Jane was the cashier; I wouldn’t discuss money with anyone.

Dorothy sat smiling in her chair in the midst of the chaos, thrilled by the attention and unfazed by the departure of her treasures. The people came and the stuff left by the armload, the carload and, at the end, the truckload, when the neighbor’s television scene-building crew relieved me of things I thought I’d never be able to unload.

In retrospect, I might have made my own choices (the Keep pile) more judiciously, especially with regard to my father’s sculpture; there are some pieces I miss and would like to have around. But what was left was more than enough; I have artwork and books and dishes and photographs and plenty of other things to remember them by.

The few things that remained after the sale found their way onto my shelves. It took me ten years to use up Dorothy’s hoard of wax paper. And when I make cookies, I take out my mother’s “Roylies,” carefully separate one from the pile, set it on the plate and feel an uprush of the 1950s, when a paper doily was a delightful invention that could save a busy housewife the labor of laundering the real handmade lace that languished in the cabinet piled neatly among sheaves of yellowing tissue paper.

Have a cookie.

4 responses to “what was left…

  1. Jennifer Bullis July 23, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I love how you handled the Sell items. And WHAT an amazing story–a cookie to Keep.

  2. LaVera July 23, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    I love this story, Thanks,

  3. cupcakemurphy July 24, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Santa Monica College!!! Up the street from me?! I can’t believe I drive past a place where your mother was. I will have a cookie, thank you!

  4. jik July 24, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    oh yeah…I look at your photos and I KNOW those palm trees! (My mom’s room at “this hotel” was on the 9th floor of Ocean House.)

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