Soon after I returned from my August vacation, my parents called to tell me that they had decided to sell their home of the last 20-years and move into a 2 -bedroom unit at a nearby retirement community. As my kids would say, I was shook.
My 79-year-old parents , are healthy and actively involved in their community. I knew that they were checking out the area’s senior residences – but I thought it was for the way-off future and also because of the nice free lunches.
I am fortunate that my parents together have been able to handle all the many complexities of selling their house, buying the new unit as well as the logistics of downsizing their house. But there is a lifetime of belongings- furniture, kitchen stuff, tools, photos and memorabilia involved when you have been married for more than 50 years. They’ve chosen to do the sorting, weeding and most of the packing on their own. As Mom told me last week, “Every item in this house needs to pass through my two hands.” Clearly, she is very much in control.
I, along with my husband Masoud, have visited their house every Saturday for the last 4 weeks.There are powerful memories in every room, closet and drawer in my parent’s home. Lucky me to have this time with my Mom and Dad to remember the stories with them. Going through my parent’s belongings has me thinking a lot about family, legacy and love.
Lucky too are my 24 and 26-year-old sons who have recently moved in together into an apartment in Brighton. They are the beneficiaries of some of Nana’s and Grampy’s stuff including an oriental runner for their hall, a maple desk, a chip and dip bowl and a paper mache deer. My mother’s beloved army trunk now serves as the boy’s coffee table.
My brother and his family lives in Missouri, so clearly, I am now the keeper of our families memories. It’s a good thing that my old New England house has both a full basement and a walk-in attic. Some of the things I am holding for my own kids include the wicker baby basinett that once held my father, myself and my daughter; my parent’s gold-plated wedding china set; retro Christmas ornaments from the 1960’s and a Dresden plate quilt my mother made in the 1970’s.
Among the most treasured possessions that I have “inherited” are the family photos and memorabilia. There are wonderful black and white photos of my Grandfather Sullivan and his brother (Joseph? Danny? I have to ask Mom), my Grandfather Dascanio dancing at New Years in Venezuela, and my parents dating in Oklahoma. I’m drowning in the photos. And I am reminded that I have let down the side. I stopped actively organizing the family photos just about the time that I started to seriously write. These vintage photos and the memorabilia will need some care. But I’ve ordered a case of albums that promise organization along with several archival photo and document boxes. Thinking about the recent hurricane and wild fire destruction- I’m also considering scanning the very best pieces– just-in-case. What a great winter project. It’s a start.