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From Our House to Son’s

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-6-17-54-amWhen Son said, “This is the house our children will grow up in,” it was time to take him all his stuff. Son moved away from home more that twenty years ago. Went off to college and then moved into a 900 square foot house when he took his first real job. He married, he and Daughter-in-Law had three children, and they moved three times. And everything collected and saved from Son’s birth through college years has been safely stored at Husband’s and my house.

Now, Son’s family has settled into their forever home. So Husband and I started gathering stuff and making plans to drive 1295 miles to deliver treasures. We’d take the back seats out of my van and fill it full.

Would Son want everything that has been saved? Some things were going for sure: a cedar chest and a toy chest and toddler-size rocking chair that my dad made for him many years ago. High school yearbooks and a letter jacket. College fraternity scrapbooks. All the picture albums with his name on the spine. A purple and gold basketball from Tennessee Tech basketball camp. Quilts that he and his family had chosen from those my granny made.

I was surprised when we opened Son’s cedar chest. Forgotten treasures lay inside. A never used quilt, pillowcases cross-stitched by another great-grandmother, three stuffed Benjis – one so loved that its fur was flattened and matted. A cookbook, including Husband’s grandmother’s recipes, published by her Home Demonstration Club. Small treasures from his grandparents’ homes. Things that Son chose when he was young. A vintage white chicken candy dish. A small wooden black bear with a note tied to it. My mom had written, “Papa and I got this when we went to the Smokies for our honeymoon in 1939.” Would these things mean anything to Son at this stage of his life?

Then there was a pile of questionable stuff. Should we take a leather belt with a big western buckle? A guitar that Son strummed for a few weeks when he was 14 and bored and snow storms closed school for a month? Cassette tapes? A blanket he bought at a flea market when he went to camp one summer? A collection of twenty-year-old Sports Illustrated magazines? Rifles – the 22 he learned to shoot as his grandfather stood over his shoulder? A Civil War rifle passed down through generations? His first B B gun? A Santa Claus cookie jar? And so much more.

Son and I talked using Face Time. I held my phone camera in front of items. Yes, the belt. Yes, the guitar. “Does it still play?” he asked. No, cassette tapes. Yes, to everything else, including all three Benjis. “Unless you don’t have room and I’ll get some stuff another time.” There’d be room. Husband and I were determined.

Daughter-in-Law’s parents brought treasures. Her great-grandmother’s desk with fragile curved legs and a mirror and jars of her grandmother’s homemade blackberry jelly.

Loading the van was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with pieces that didn’t fit. Husband measured and wrapped and taped. We wedged and padded and filled every possible space. After three hours, we declared that everything would travel securely and not rattle during our journey. Husband drove around the block just to make sure.

How would Son and Daughter-in-Law and their three young children react when they see all this stuff? Stuff that’s theirs. Mostly stuff that has been in the house where Son grew up.

Cleaning Out: A Dreaded Chore

cartoon-lady-closetHusband said, “It’s going to be really hot tomorrow. Too hot to be outside. How about we clean out and sort stuff at the store basement?” His words pierced my heart. My stomach. The basement where we’d banished stuff for 35 years. Stuff too big to stick under a bed or hang on the garage wall or fit on a shelf in our home storage closet. And stuff I couldn’t emotionally let go, but didn’t have a current use for.

“Can we do it in two hours?” I mumbled. I’ve purposefully avoided the basement for years. Husband regularly takes things to and from there, but I’ve held to an old theory: out of sight, out of mind.

“Probably. We’ll make three piles.” Everyone knows the piles. “Keep, trash, sell or give away.”

My inner voice said, “How about you just take care of it? I don’t care what you do with stuff.” But I heard myself say, “Okay. Sounds like a plan.” I knew it had to be done sometime and some work is planned for that space so it’s logical to clean it out.

The next morning, I awoke two hours earlier than normal. I thought of stuff. What about Granny’s quilting frames? The ones that hung in her bedroom for decades and she used to quilt the many, many quilts that my family and I love. Long wooden boards that haven’t been used in forty years. And my big blue bike, my 10th birthday present? And what’s there from my children’s childhood?

“I’m not looking forward to this,” I told Husband as we sipped coffee.

“Me, either. It has to be done.” We agreed the sell and give away pile included stuff that Son and Daughter would get first dibs on. That took off some pressure.

Thankfully, the first items we came across were easily sorted. Sell or give: draperies from a previous house and a baby-kicking musical toy that none of our Grands liked. Trash: a baby bed that doesn’t meet safety standards. A county fair stuffed animal that a live animal had obviously made a home in. A basketball with a slit.

I spotted wheeled toys. Keep: A red toddler tricycle and Son’s childhood bike. Give away: my blue bike. I rationalized it hasn’t been ridden in 40 years and no one rides bikes like it and it might end up being trashed. Trash: Big wheel with wobbly wheels. If it had an odometer it would’ve logged 100,000 miles.

The sell or give pile grew. University of Georgia beanbag. Hot wheels plastic carrying case. Quart canning jars. Pepsi Coal hanging lamp. Kitchen chairs. Golf clubs. And much, much more.

After two hours, we hauled a small truckload of stuff to the Putnam County recycling and garbage center on Dacco Quarry Road. Slinging trash into dumpsters felt good. Almost cathartic.

At home, sitting on the back porch swing, I dusted 100-piece jigsaw puzzles boxes. My Grands will laugh at Popeye, Mickey Mouse, and Road Runner. I sorted through my deceased parents’ Christmas tree decorations and divided them into three stacks: one for each of their grandchildren.

A chore I’d dreaded is done and lighten my emotionally attachments. Daughter wants my blue bike and the kitchen chairs. Son wants his UGA beanbag and my dad’s golf clubs. A friend took canning jars. Everything isn’t out of the basement, but it’s all sorted.

Granny’s quilting frames will fit under a king size bed or hang as art on a bedroom wall. And Son and Daughter get to sort boxes labeled ‘School Memories.’ It’s their stuff.