Funeral Pyre—Oops, Just Kidding
Mother is sorting. She has been going through boxes from the storage unit for days. The problem is that she is discarding very little, and all of what she is laboriously plowing through seems to be PAPER! Yes folks, mother has hoarded so much paper memorabilia that I am concerned that we may all self-combust.
I was sitting on the couch the other night wondering at the mass of literature round about her chair as she sifted through page by page. Each piece seemed to go right back in the box she was intending to save, when all of a sudden she holds up a receipt and says, “Here’s the receipt from when I had my wicker purse repaired at the coast. You remember that honey?”
This was directed at my father who did not remove his eyes from the television screen, only nodded his head and said, “Sure, dear.”
Dad is an experienced observer of mom’s paper sorting.
I, on the other hand, made the suggestion that since that must be at least ten years old, that it was a piece of paper that she could probably live without. I suggested she toss it in the barely used number ten trash sack at her elbow. She placed it in the ‘keeper’ box.
The next item was a note from their landlord in Tacoma (again at least fifteen years old). It was on a piece of scratch paper that I am sure he found under the front seat of his car along with his left over McDonald’s lunch sacks—I swear there was catsup on the corner. When I suggested she throw this away she threatened to remove a piece from the trash, tape it back together, and place it in the save box. I determined to stay quiet.
The next few items were restaurant menus, travel brochures, newsletters like you find on the tables of restaurants in tourist towns, and programs from plays and movies.
From there it digressed again to old grocery receipts (“They show how much things cost and will be valuable some day,” mom said), an envelope that had nothing in it—was addressed—but was too pretty to throw away, and an old calendar with the Campbell’s Soup Kids on it. These all went into the save box along with a multitude of lists—lists of tasks already completed, lists of groceries bought long ago, and lists that serious decisions were based on, just to name a few. When I once again suggested the discarding of some of these items, she retorted, “If you expect me to write a family history, I have to have something to jog my memory.”
Mixed in this lot were important things like original documents, awards, certificates, degrees and grandfather’s old handwritten calling cards in their silver case. But, all of this went back into the same box with the refrigerator art from us, and every other kid she had ever known in her librarian/school career, and report cards from kids she and dad didn’t even foster or adopt.
When she lifted a whole handful of Christmas cards out of the box, I knew I was doomed—DOOMED I SAY! “Mom, don’t you think you could part with those?” (I know silly question.) I rationalized, “They are not old enough to be collectibles and they are just taking up space.”
Mom looked at me as though I had suggested her shredding her parent’s marriage license (which I am sure is in there somewhere). “I intend to give them to the children’s hospital as soon as I can get around to it. They can cut out the pictures and use them for art projects.” (Heaven forbid that I should thwart a child’s creativity.)
Dad had been mostly quiet during all this. His eyes glued on the television for anonymity. “You know how you have always said you want to be cremated, Mom?” I asked.
Mom looked up from the 1974 copy of the list of her body measurements that she was reading. “I know what we will do,” I said, warming to my subject. “We’ll have a big funeral pyre with you on top. You know, like the Vikings? Then we’ll toss all your ‘important’ papers on top. Who says you can’t take it with you?”
That did get a smile out of dad, though his eyes did not leave the TV screen.
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