When I was growing up with my parents’ illnesses, after awhile I didn’t realize how much those illnesses occupied my life. And when each of them died, I had some space from the illnesses and began to forget about them.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been preparing to sell my parents’ house and then hold an estate sale of their belongings. I’ve been knee deep in cleaning out and organizing. Going through item after item – every decision about whether to keep or discard something felt like a decision to keep or discard my parents. And then I came across six solid filing cabinets full of my parents’ medical records. And I couldn’t ignore how much the illnesses had consumed me.
For almost two years, I went back and forth about the amount of my parents’ furniture I was going to keep. At one point, I planned on taking almost half of it. The furniture is beautiful. It is. Well-crafted, dark wood and formal designs. Purchased for when my parents entertained with fancy affairs. Purchased for a different life than mine.
So instead, I took five items of furniture. One piece was “Mary’s Buffet. “ When I was a small child, I thought that “Mary’s Buffet” was the formal name of this piece of furniture – like a breakfront or a secretary desk. But it’s just what my mom called it, because it was her college roommate, Mary’s, buffet. It is not fancy or unique or even that pretty. But it stayed with my mom for over forty years from Denver to Kansas City to Washington, D.C. and then back to Kansas City again.
After the estate sale company had set everything up in my parents’ home for the actual estate sale, I drove over to the house late at night and wandered around. Each room was set up like a little boutique.
I flipped through boardgames on a table and hoped that some other child would find them endlessly fun as I had. I traced my fingers along the edges of my mother’s beautiful Portmerion dishes and hoped that some other mother would fall in love with these dishes the way my mom had. I sat down on a couch in the living room and surveyed the room, and I hoped some other family would find many happy memories on this sofa. Or maybe, happier memories.