A white shoe box was tucked securely under her arm, slightly crushed from a tight squeeze.
“Can you keep this for me for a couple of months?” she hands me the box, the lid askew.
“Sure.” Having worked for ten years at this Seniors Centre, I was used to strange requests.
She pulled up a chair in front of my desk and collapsed into it.
“Oh thank you!” she sighed heavily. “My daughter is cleaning out my apartment and is throwing everything away!” and then she burst into tears.
Mementoes. Keepsakes. Things of interest.
Except for the shoe box.
Inside she shows me some black & white photos of her late husband. His war medals. A picture of her as a decorated war nurse. Trinkets and souvenirs from vacations. Things that had memory and meaning. Bits of this and that. She runs her hand over the lid as she closes it and smiles at me.
“It’s just about all I’ve got left” she gasps.
I offer to save more for her if she wants.
“No. No, it’ll be fine. That’s enough”.
It is not the first time I’ve heard of daughters on a house cleaning rampage. They mean well.
My Mother had a lot of stuff. It wasn’t junk or dirt or a mess. Her apartment was filled with pleasant memories and interesting things. There was no reason for me to have a fit and clean things out. I didn’t live there. It was her stuff and her place. Just as I have my stuff, and my place. After all, she had decades more years of memories and things representing those experiences than me. Such things are like old friends and very comforting. They made her feel safe. When it came time for her to let go of things, and move into a home, I let her choose what meant the most to her to keep. She requested that I keep some things. Just knowing I had them was a great comfort to her.
Months later this woman retrieved her shoe box and held it lovingly in her arms.
“My daughter moved me into a seniors home” she lamented. “I only have room for this”.
When we’ve got more years behind us than ahead, we take delight in things past. What is wrong with surrounding ourselves with the things that remind us of a life well lived? The young show off their trophies of places they’ve been and photographs of things they’ve seen to impress others. We have emotional ties to our trinkets and treasures that provide us with a feeling of home, security and love. We realize such things have little if any meaning to anyone else and we don’t expect them too (but are a little disappointed they don’t). However, they sure warm our hearts and keep us grounded in an increasingly hostile world. So be careful with our treasures children, and gentle with us, please. You can do what you like when we are gone. You just might find some new meaning in them then.