Monday, September 29, 2008
Closing Mom's House
Politics took a backseat to more important subjects today. My priority was attacking fifty five years of clutter in Mom's house withm thanks God, my sister-in-law Els, and David. It was not a job I could ever had done alone-and it's not over yet. We have just begun to fight with some closets which are fighting back. They don't want to be empty. They were perfectly happy being full of crap. And when I say crap, I am not saying it in the nicest possible way.
Over the last few months I have attempted to clean out the house little by little. I started with Mom's clothing, scarves, and jewelry. First I took things I thought sh'e like to have in Seattle, and sent them out to her. Then I looked at things that she couldn't or wouldn't wear. She had some pretty colorful pieces, which I put aside for Jordan and my niece, Devin - both of whom are as colorful as the costumes. Then I went through the not so colorful stuff - there were (and I am not exaggerating) 60 shirts, 95 pairs of pants, (all different sizes) 30 skirts, 35 dresses -fancy and plain) , 75 sweaters and sweatshirts, and 50 coats and jackets. Then I moved to shoes and purses. If I tell you she had 90 pairs of shoes and 20 pairs of boots, I am probably underestimating. But the wondrous thing was that so much of the aforementioned items still had the price tags still on them. She loved to shop and she loved to return. She was one of those people who never tried on so if she liked it she bought it and then when she got it home, she would either try it on or just hang it in the closet - hoping that at some time it might be something she would want to wear. If, by the time she got something home and didn't like it, she would return it the next day. Shopping, like cooking and freezing (we call her Delores Defrost), was her job. Her day went something like this; up by 8, make something for breakfast. Then make something for dinner - freeze it. Off to the mall (most days with Aunt Sophie). Lunch out or in, depending on the Mall and what Aunt Sophie had on her schedule. Home by 4, defrost whatever she had cooked for dinner. Dinner by 5 and then an evening of TV. When Aunt Sophie's husband was alive they aften had dinner out-or they ate whatever Delores defrosted. After he died, Mom and Aunt Sophie spent more time together so there was TV and card playing in the evening. But whatever else they did, shopping was right up there as a priority.
It was difficult to face what I was going to do with all the stuff but luckily, the Super at our NY apartment said that people in his church needed everything and anything I could give. So I packed up 12 big black garbage bags full of everything and drove them into the city. Geez, I felt great, until I returned to the house and realized that I had not even touched the basement or the attic. “OK” I thought, “I can do this.”. So I started by walking downstairs, making my way around my brother's bicycle clutter and cleaning out the freezer in the basement. There were things in that freezer that my mother bought because my father wanted them-he's been dead for twenty-one years.
Once I had tossed all the food and hauled it outside - frozen food is really heavy -- I looked at the closets. More clothes-but this stuff has been there for years and years. They have been there for so long that the hangers were stuck to the poles. It was too dusty for me to spend much time there, so decided to come back to it on a day when I could breathe without effort. Enough with the basement, I decided, and made my way back two flight of stairs to the attic.
There were no more clothes but there were pots and pans, dishes, glasses, furniture, games, old books (from my high school days), toys, and a plethora of old pictures and movies. I started to work my way through the pictures of my parents as teenagers-they were high school sweethearts and of all my loving aunts and uncles so long gone. The I couldn't do it anymore because I couldn't imagine keeping all this stuff and I couldn't imagine throwing it aways. Too much past to toss without no more than a quick goodbye.
Richard Avedon turned up in the den
The books, games, pots and pans were easier but I knew it would take me months of short visits and many tears. I decided the best thing t0o do was wait for my brother or sister-in-law to give me a hand. Els is much better about ridding us of all the junk than either my brother or I.
When we started to clean this morning we were able to work our way through almost all the rest of the closets, the attic and some of the basement. We did it with great precision and many laughs-you can't imagine the things my mother collect. She could not read a catalogue without finding something she absolutely had to have- like 10 pairs of magnifying glasses, a whack the stress away contraption, knives, grinders, and fancy frames, are only the beginning.
We did find the dress and veil from my first wedding as well as 9 fur coats-yes nine and none of them we bought by my mother-but that's another blob. The good news is we have a week to do it. The bad news is that once it's done the house will be gone and all those memories probably soon forgotten. But it's a New Year for the Jews, and a new life for this house we love so well. We're just sayin....Iris