As I sit here packing up a box of old photos to send to M, I consider her reaction. It’s the same reaction I get from any of my children when I give them something that’s been in the family for awhile.
“Are you sick? What’s the matter? Are you going to die?”
Because, after all, that’s when people pass on things like that.
So. Am I sick? Not any more so than any other day. Am I dying? Not that I know of. (But then again, who knows?)
On the other hand, I am, in my family, the Keeper of Things. I have photos of each child going back to the womb. I have elementary school papers, ecology projects, ceramic handprints with sentimental sayings, report cards, mementos of first high school dances, graduation gowns and much more. I also have mine. And my mother’s. I have old McCall’s handicraft magazines with my mother’s designs featured in them. I have magazines featuring my articles. I have my grandmother’s beautiful frilly square dance dresses that I remember her wearing when I was a kid as she and my grandfather kicked up their heels in small town Indiana. I have baby clothing too cute to recycle and about a million shells that we collected in Florida over 12 years.
This is why, as I get to the point of seeing my mortality in the distance– and seeing my cluttered house much closer– that I am going through the photos and the family hand-me-downs, and passing them on. I gave my great-grandmother’s pieced quilt she made for my birth to B a couple of years ago. I’ll be giving the small table and chairs my mother and mother-in- law refinished to M for her little ones. Better they should be enjoyed now than rest in a closet for the next ten or twenty years, wouldn’t you say?
But don’t worry, I won’t give it all away. I still keep the albums with the photos of the face M made when she ate her first sno-cone, and B’s days at nursery school on the University of Miami campus, while I was a single mom in law school. There’s evidence of all our family trips, to Key West, to the California coast, to Michigan, to Mammoth Caves, to Washington D.C., to Toronto and more. And the hair. The 1980s hair. Teased bangs how high??? (Don’t worry, I’m saving those for blackmail opportunities. Yes, I am truly evil.)
It’s been a great life, not always what I’ve expected or planned, but maybe that’s better. Now the children can have their part of the heritage, seeing a little bit of me, and a little bit of them as they move into adulthood and write their own stories. Nothing’s permanent. Life’s joys and sorrows, as they say, are better shared. So, pass it on.