Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mary's Buffet

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.

*A special thanks to all the people who helped make this new chapter possible: Max Jones at Remax Revolution, Sue Shores at Changeit Redesign, Absolute Estates Sales, and Tucker Painting.


  1. The stories of names are just as important as the purpose they serve. I have a barn window mirror that comes from a barn that stood for years on my grandparents farm.

  2. “When someone you love dies, you are given the gift of "second chances". Their eulogy is a reminder that the living can turn their lives around at any point. You’re not bound by the past; that is who you used to be. You’re reminded that your feelings are not who you are, but how you felt at that moment. Your bad choices defined you yesterday, but they are not who you are today. Your future doesn’t have to travel the same path with the same people. You can start over. You don’t have to apologize to people that won’t listen. You don’t have to justify your feelings or actions, during a difficult time in your life. You don’t have to put up with people that are insecure and want you to fail. All you have to do is walk forward with a positive outlook, and trust that God has a plan that is greater than the sorrow you left behind. The people of quality that were meant to be in your life won’t need you to explain the beauty of your heart. They already understand what being human is----a roller coaster ride of emotions during rainstorms and sunshine, sprinkled with moments when you can almost reach the stars.” ― Shannon L. Alder

    You are brave and strong and the people who are giving the items new homes will indeed find new meaning and memories with them. But those are for them. Yours are preciously yours.

  3. I always read the blog, but especially around holidays. Your reflections on your parents and the less discussed difficulties around loss are so beautiful.


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