eglantine_br (eglantine_br) wrote,
eglantine_br
eglantine_br

Peeling off the Pieces

My mother died five years ago now. I am the youngest of a crop of cousins who range up to those starting their own old age. I am half done with my life.

My brother and I are still wrestling with selling off the things we will never use.This includes a house and property. Neither of us can go live there. It makes no sense to keep it. The person who buys it will not use it the way my parents did. They may come to love it, but it will be a vacation home. They  will not have a big garden, and a goat shed. They will not practice home canning, and buy mail order bees. My parents moved to the country in 1970, as a sort of rebellion. They brought with themselves things for possible lives. Then they discarded what they did not use, (or put it in an attic which actually sounds more like them.)

I am still peeling away the things I am not going to keep. This week I dug out a box of silverware. It was here in my apartment, tucked in a corner. I had not opened it since we packed it to move from Florida 7 years ago now. I did not use it in Florida, or before that, or ever. I am never going to have a dinner party for 12.  She gave it to me for a life that is just not going to happen. There is not room in my apartment for 12 people. Better to sell it to someone who will love it and use it. Better to sell it and never think of it again.

But I opened the box today and my throat filled. It smells of her house-- of old books, and wood, and just a little mildew.  The wooden box itself needed cleaning. Son's cactus had rested on it, all the way up from Florida. Cactus had an encounter with the cat, in the back of the car. So dirt. I had the oil soap ready-- but I was sorry to wash away the last, lost, smell of the past.

I am thinking, a little muzzily, about what gets kept and what gets discarded. The things we give our children, the things our parents gave us, are not always things we will use or need. Some things are a good bet: Language, literacy  health, kindness, some species of decent manners. But even those things change a lttle with the times.

Nobody knows what to hand forward, what to save. I do not now need to know how use a scythe. I held the scythe, last time I went home, this summer, when we were throwing things away.  I thought about the smooth wood under my hand, and the way it seemed to wrap around my body. It is a beautiful tool. But I was going home to Brooklyn, on a plane, I could not bring it through Logan airport. It is, after all, a giant knife. So I left it, in the woodshed. I did not throw it away.

My mother also had a giant saw. it is the kind meant to be used by two men, one of whom stands in a hole in the ground. My parents never used it. But it was always there. Probably had come with the house. We left that there too. I expect it will puzzle the buyers. Or maybe it will please them. That would be good. There were things like that when my parents bought the house too. it was before my birth, but i know the stories. Some things they kept. Some things were puzzling, or comical, or useless.  There is a rocking chair that came with the house. it cannot leave the house, because if you put it on a level floor it will dump you over backward. You could put a marble on the floor of my childhood, and watch it roll to the downhill side of the room. The house was built by sailors. The floorboards are joined with tar and oakum. They are probably watertight, but they are not level.

Nobly knows what to hand forward.

That is all I am thinking tonight. It is not much of a thought-- but there it is anyway. I figure you guys will know what I mean.
Tags: childhood, family, real life
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