I was fortunate to grow up in a home with a stay-at-home mother who was mindful in taking care of our home. I never had to sleep in dirty sheets, walk through grimy halls or feel sticky floors on my bare feet. There were never piled up dirty dishes in the sink or mystery smells in the fridge or dusty things growing in the corners. It was never required of us to do our own laundry or to cook our own meals. Somehow I knew how to do all of these things even if I wasn’t asked to do them. This was how my mother showed she loved her children; I want to clarify that we were not spoiled in the bratty sense of the word. We were spoiled in the sense that our mother wanted us to be children, her children, forever. We were always grateful and expressed our gratitude. My mother showed her love by mothering. As I’ve grown into mothering myself and am able to look back on the years of pristine housework and flawlessly vacuumed carpet, I am able to both appreciate it more and resent it all at the same time. I am able to recognize how my mother tried so hard to show us her affection and love in all of these so many ways in order to fill the empty and soulless spaces of our home. Our family home was never warm or welcoming. There were no family pictures around in noticeable places or evidences that a family lived there. Toys, books, or anything else weren’t allowed out in the open. It was a showpiece, a place to hold my father’s collections of things, and we were a part of all that. My mother, bless her, could only fill up so much space with actions when no words were there to help.
I would like to think that many years from now when I am long gone, when my children and grandchildren are tasked with the burden of going through all my this’s and that’s, they will find themselves more heavily laden with memories and laughter than burdened with anything else. I hope they will discover the scraps of paper I kept with childish handwriting that spelled the words “I lov youue mome” left for me around the house by my little boy. And I hope they find drawing of God, Jesus and The Holy Ghost he drew for me too, the one with enormous belly buttons. I hope they find the placemat where I drew happy sunshine after sunshine for my little girl so she would not fuss while the food was taking so long. They might even find little treats I bought for them but forgot where I hid them.
The poor things will have to figure out what to do with all the copies of family portraits I would put around the house. I love having portraits done and never in a studio. Then there are all the photographs from a million years ago that I never got around to scrapbooking. Oops. They will find ticket stubs, noodle art, holiday decorations, Little Golden Books, half-written stories, ideas for gifts, old letters… and birds. Lots of birds.
Most importantly, when it is all said and done, after all the trinkets and pretty things have been labeled and given away, I would hope that all my dear ones would sit around the fireplace and recognize that all I ever wanted to surround myself with was already right there. There is no meaning to anything I have unless it enriches the relationships I have. Collections are only worth the dust they trap if I only value the pieces and not the joy they bring to the people I love most.
I hope most of all, in all those years from now, that is what is known about me from what I leave behind; that what I loved weren’t what’s but who’s.