It’s very cold in the east. I hope no one put their plants in the groundlast week because it’s likely the weather will kill them. What a happy thought. I remember when we first moved to Arlington I planted lots of flowers around the second week in April and by the third week they were gone to plant heaven. My neighbor, soon to be in our lives as ‘Pop Pop’ Trainum, came through the fence in the backyard shaking his head. “Never plant until May 1st.” At age 87 ‘Pop Pop’ decided that his grandson, who was supposed to be cutting down one of the almost dead trees in our backyard, didn’t know what he was doing, so ‘Pop Pop’ grabbed the chainsaw and did it himself. He just knew about gardens and yards and trees, so they always had the best tomatoes, the most beautiful flowers, and bushes that were easily the most shapely in Arlington.
April 7, 9 a.m. Arlington, VA
The Trainums, Jordan’s surrogate grandparents, had lived in Virginia for over 70 years. He had been a lawyer who worked for a Government Agency, and she was a teacher. They were devout Christians, and, I am told by their son, that they didn’t care much for Jews. But we never saw that and they certainly knew we were Jewish. They were wonderful, generous people and fabulous neighbors. One year David was shooting a Time story about grandparent-grandchild relationships. He took a picture of Jesse (Mrs. T.) reading to Jordan on our back porch. It was published a page and a half in TIME, and everyone in Arlington was raving about the fact that Jesse Trainum was a star. And for all the Burnetts, she was.
Jesse, died when she was 87. She got cancer and was gone within six months. Charlie (‘Pop Pop’) lived to be 100. He stayed in the house for two years after Jesse died but then moved south to live with one of his children. He wrote to us every Christmas until he died, and the message was always the same. He liked being with his kids but he missed his yard and his garden. I think about them every time I walk out the back door and whenever I think it’s time to plant, I see Pop Pop shaking his head and repeating, “Not until May 1st.”
I finished the shopping for mom’s new apartment. It’s very cute. She’s moving in Monday so if anyone wants to send a note she’s Rose Groman, Victoria Mews, 51 N. Main Street, Boonton Township, N.J. 07005. Anyway, I started to go through all the stuff in the house to figure out what might make her feel at home without feeling her home was empty or different. There is so much crap in the house, even I couldn’t get through it—and I am the queen of “toss whatever is not attached with a nail.” I mean I can’t even stand to have a piece of mail on my kitchen counters but here, it’s like the junk mail is alive and reproducing. The kitchen stuff, bedroom stuff, collectables, clothes, shoes, furniture, Christmas goodies, and catalogue items, are endless. There is nothing that has any value, but if you could add up the thousands of $2 items, the contents of the house would be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Only it’s not because as we say, it’s just dreck. This house might be an e-bay dream but I can’t imagine anyone would make a purchase—not even on e-bay.
Part of the problem is that for years, mom had nothing to do but shop. Our attic was “the store” all my cousins went to when they needed to give a gift to a friend. When my Aunt Helene was alive they would spend one day going to a store, and buying a variety of things. The next day they would go back to the store and return whatever they had purchased. One day buy, one day return. Then Aunt Helene died and Aunt Sophie wasn’t as fond of the shop-return exercise. Besides, she had a husband and a life. Mom had shopping. So when it wasn’t much fun to go to a store (which she continued to do—the Dollar Store being her favorite) she shopped by mail. Stuff like you see on TV at 2am but in the “onion chopper/slicer/dicer” category. So every few years we would clean out the attic and the cellar and before we had finished clearing the decks, another load of stuff appeared. I did admonish her for the non-stop buying but David said it was her only fun so to leave her alone. I couldn’t, but she ignored me. As my mother always says, What is, is.
Here’s what I have learned. It’s time to downsize. I never want my kids to have to go through this. We collect stuff all our lives and then when we get old, we have to discard it in some way, because our space gets smaller and our attention span shorter. The whole thing gives me the willies. And when I look around my house I know that the only thing of value are the people who live there. And I won’t ever want to throw them away. We’re just sayin...Iris