My mother’s house is going to be sold. I have spent days down there gradually replacing the feeling that this is an important part of my mother’s life with ‘what are we going to do with all this shit?’ Some of it I recognize as being mine. And that’s not the carefully kept school reports or photographs of friends I’ve not thought about in 50 years. No, that’s the stuff we dumped on Mum and Dad when we sold our house and went to live in England. Most of it’s rubbish from the ‘pottery era’ but I will admit to being slightly tempted with the big glass jars I used to have in my pantry until I realized they’ve got yellow lids and yellow is not my colour at the present time.
I began the clean out with what I thought would be the easy stuff. I took Mum out of confinement one afternoon to choose her wardrobe for – well, basically the rest of her life. And before you choke that’s not including new things. We’ll get new things but there had to be a basic set of everything first. I got her a cup of tea and a chair and 2 hours later we still weren’t done. I’d hold something up and the most common response was ‘That’s old,’ followed closely by ‘I’ve never seen that before. Is it mine? ‘ The session ended with me forming a general idea of what she preferred and taking her back to the hospital. A few days later I tried doing it on my own and came up with a new wardrobe of things I liked her wearing. It meant there was a lot left over. One pile (aka 2 full garbage bags), are for the hospice shop because they’re nice clothes someone might wear; and the other 3 garbage bags went straight into one of those clothes bins in the supermarket carpark that tell you to tie the shoes together. So that was her wardrobe done.
Yesterday I tackled food. I was not happy about it because I knew if I bought any of it home I’d have to tidy up the mess here before it could find a space, so I started on the freezer. I put everything into one basket that my darling husband who despite how ever long we’ve been married, mistook for being a completed task. No, no, no. I have a system when I throw things out. First I put them in piles, (the one basket in this instance), then I think about it and throw out half, then after a bit of de-sensitisation, I chuck pretty much 90% of what’s left. Simple. And taking it away mid process is rather off-putting. Anyway, I left the freezer and moved on to the pantry where everything went according to plan until I grabbed a whole lot of packets and found that for whatever reason, Mum had cut the entire top off the packet of cornflour. It looked like snow (or cocaine if you prefer) on the dark grey kitchen tiles. The half packet that went all the way down one leg of my jeans looked pretty awesome as well. Of course, that was exactly the moment I hear the gentle knocking on the door. It was raining. You can’t leave an old person outside in the rain, so I shook myself off and answered the door. It was the neighbour offering me sympathy and a cardboard box. When he left, I discovered it wasn’t hard to find my way back. All I had to do was follow the trail of white footprints across the dark brown carpet. Good thing I’d found the chocolate truffles in the bottom of the wardrobe last week.
So what did I take home? Stuff. That’s what I took home. 5 little boxes of stuff and this one piece of paper I found in a drawer. (I will have beautifully behaved children – Robyn Marie Nicoll 8.11.73).
Naturally when I got round to it five years later, they were. Though I’m not sure what they’ll be like after clearing out all the crap from this house. I’m going to be like Mum and not worry about it. Most of it’s theirs anyway.