Picking up the album and turning the pages, she stopped at the smiling faces in bathing trunks at the beach. Her eyes lost focus, as she was lost in memories of that now-distant time when her family was all together, before her brother had died in the war and her father had followed her mother in death. She deliberately broke her reverie as she realized that time did not allow for such unstructured moments. She had taken a week off from work and family to fly in to close down her childhood home. There was so much to do--clean out the house, contract for some minor repairs, and get ready for the realtor who would place the house on the market. She was finding that she shouldn't, couldn't allow herself to remember things too deeply, because of limited time and a limited emotional reservoir.
Other photographs brought puzzlement. Some, dating back decades, were pictures of relatives whose identity she hardly remembered. There was a couple with babe in arms standing so proudly next to her father and mother, but who were they? She didn't want to toss out that family linkage, but with a limited-storage modern house, she simply did not have the room. Nor would her own children have a place in their lives for such extraneous items.
Left to the end was the closet in which her parents had stored the many toys, papers, and awards of her childhood. They, too, had the effect of dredging up so many memories of delight, and some breath-taking pensiveness of what might have been.
She completed her tasks and then flew home to re-enter her current world. Still, she could not so quickly close down her parents' lives. Continuing to drift in from the edge of her consciousness were remembrances of all the vitality, the struggling, the caring and, in the end, the decreasing focus and interest in living. All was now ended, except in her memory, and as she knew, the intensity of those remembrances would diminish as "life moves on."
Returning home, she looked around her own home and decided to spare her children all the work of sorting, keeping and tossing (mostly tossing) of the accruements of her life. So, one night after work, she opened a drawer to begin the process. The first item she picked up was a membership card from an organization she had left a decade earlier. Of no use to her, and certainly of no use to her children, still the card brought back memories of people and activities. The card was a link in her own life. She sighed, put the card back and closed the drawer.
Someday the children, she thought, will wonder why their
mother kept that old thing, as they toss it into the wastebasket.
--Robert H. Tucker
10 August 1998