By Deborah Wright Yoho
People we know spark a writer's passion. My mother has been a puzzle to me since earliest childhood. Her name was Rose.
Mom never downsized, having resisted all my cajoling to please, please deal with her three bedroom house crammed to the rafters with stuff. She was a hoarder, perhaps not interesting enough to be featured on TV, but bad enough. Since she died eight months ago, I have been dealing with her leavings. Mom, why did you do this to me?
I started with her kitchen. In the refrigerator, packed wall to wall, top to bottom, lived twelve packets of sliced cheese, all of it outdated, the oldest moldy package two years old. In a cabinet, I found nine cans of expensive Melitta coffee, six bottles of olive oil, and five jars of gourmet orange marmalade. Mom, you couldn't afford to stock up on such things!
I don't think she did. I realize only now her memory was compromised long before her last hospitalization. How many times had I helped her put away bags of groceries? How often had I struggled to find room in that fridge? Yet it had never occurred to me she had been buying duplicates of favorite items she had already stashed away.
My mother was a collector. Angels and elephants, tablecloths, costume jewelry, five different sets of Christmas dishes, knick knacks from our travels. But plastic bags, bread ties, dried up ballpoint pens, hundreds of clothes pins? She had been using an electric dryer since 1967.
In her basement, Mom saved all our Samsonite suitcases. A family of Air Force vagabonds with three kids, we had a lot of suitcases; none of them had wheels. She also kept all the curtains she ever hung in more than a dozen different homes. I won't discuss her clothes, except to mention 82 pairs of shoes.
My mother's last ten years weren't so easy. You could tell by her stuff. She saved four diabetes glucometers and three blood pressure cuffs.
I am by now expert at solid waste disposal and recycling. Half a dozen charities recognize my car when I drive up. I know which brand of trash bags is the strongest and how to organize a garage sale (I made $600). I survived sore muscles, sleepless nights, and long-distance arguments with my brothers. I now suffer from myopia, having focused for weeks on handling, cleaning, sorting, folding, packing, lifting, loading, and unloading.
I left her underwear drawer for last, unable to touch her fragile, lovely lingerie. Underneath her sizeable collection of lacy slips, I found my reward, a photo album I had never seen before. Clinging to the faded pages, my parents, circa 1946 - before the kids, before they were married, before the moves, before all the stuff.