Tag Archives: mom

Stuff and Things

Today I bought a book I don’t plan to read.

I know, all you minimalists and declutterers out there are gasping in horror, but look–I’m a Taurus. I like my stuff. Even stuff that doesn’t spark joy.

The book in question is Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott. I must have read it twenty times growing up, I loved it that much. It came in a set with five other books: Little Women and its sequels (Little Men – which was honestly my favorite – and Jo’s Boys), Under the Lilacs, and Jack and Jill. Somewhere along the way, I’d lost Eight Cousins.

I kind of figured that my mom had it. I mean, she had kept everything else from my childhood, from my old Raggedy Ann to the the notes from my high school crush. After she passed away, I found myself digging through a lifetime’s worth of ephemera: my mom was a Taurus, too.

I like my things, she’d said more than once, when I suggested maybe she could downsize.

I searched and searched, lifted hundreds of pounds of books in dozens of cardboard boxes, but I never found this one book. And if I had, chances are it would have been warped and mildewed like the rest of them, victims of a storage unit flood. Even then, Mom couldn’t stand to get rid of anything. The number of books we consigned to the town dump still breaks my heart. I eventually decided to stop thinking about it.

And then, a couple weeks ago, I came across another old favorite in the local bookstore: The Annotated Wizard of Oz. Touching the familiar, bright yellow cover was like stepping out of a time machine; I can remember the exact spot on the bookshelf in our living room where that particular volume was kept. It even smelled like my childhood: sandalwood and lemon pledge and stale cigarette smoke.

That afternoon I went home and scoured the internet for my missing copy of Eight Cousins. I found it, of all places, on Etsy. It sat in my cart for a while, and today I actually hit “buy.” It should arrive next week.

I don’t know if my mother’s things sparked joy. And I don’t know if I will ever open the cover of my beloved Eight Cousins, except to check to see if the publication date matches the rest of my set. It doesn’t matter. We just like our things.


How to plan a funeral

Message your family first. Call your wife. Tell them, she’s gone.

Sit vigil by her bedside until your brother arrives. Her brother brings espresso; her sister brings a cake. They had promised her something with flavor, near the end. Her brother touches a cup to her lips.

Go to her house. Start to assess what needs to be done: estate sale, house cleaning, realtor. Spend an hour or two catching her cats.

Collect her ashes from the funeral home.

Go to dinner with your family. She would have liked that. Order tequila shots all around; she would have liked that, too.

“She didn’t want a funeral,” her sister says. Try not to hate yourself for being relieved.

Swallow your tequila. Start planning something else: a vacation, maybe, to scatter her ashes somewhere she loved.


News: How to remodel

I am pleased and honored to share that my short essay about my mother, How to Remodel, has been published by the lovely folks over at Dead Housekeeping.

About Dead Housekeeping (from their website):

When people die we can still clearly picture the way they did things. We don’t remember our departed in a vacuum, but in motion, in particular. We can still see and sense “how they did it” years after the doer’s deaths.

This is a heartfelt look at loss through the lens of the home.

I highly encourage you to spend some time reading through the essays published on their site. Touching, funny, poignant, and raw – these stories will not disappoint you.

Photo of myself (age 21) and my mother

My mother and I in 1995 or so

Lace

We got the kids’ school pictures yesterday. We send them to the grandparents every year for Christmas: four different addresses. Our mothers, our fathers. My wife shook the pictures out of the envelope, showed them to me: N’s goofy grin, Z’s untamable hair. Three sets of photos. Three sets, not four.

My mother’s death did not leave a gaping hole in our lives. She wasn’t woven into the fabric of my everyday. Instead, my mother’s absence is a series of tiny voids: eyelet lace. One less person to tag on the photo of the kids’ Halloween costumes. One less phone call on Thanksgiving. I decorated our house this weekend with the garlands and lights and red velvet bows that she brought me for the first Christmas after N was born. I snapped a picture on my phone, and didn’t know who to send it to.