Surrender 74: Putting the Keep in Keepsakes

Today was another Monday spent in Arkansas. While Greg worked outside today, doing some needed repairs, I had the inside of the house to myself. The children have taken the items that they want, or tagged the bigger pieces for later delivery. Greg and I have also picked out the mementos that have significance for each of us. 

Today I started the task of the final pass through. Beginning in the spare bedroom, I once again sorted through boxes of items, creating three stacks: sell, keep, throw away. By far, the two largest piles were in the throw away and the sell categories. 

In the still house, in this stripped down room, I felt a mix of emotions. Is this what’s left at the end of life? Piles of stuff that no one wants or needs? I threw open windows and let sunshine and warm fresh air in, to dispel the gloom and chill, of the room and of my thoughts. 


I know, in my heart, that Bob and Leta Moore leave a much greater legacy than these boxes of knick knacks, piles of papers and stacks of photos. And those memories and stories and character qualities are passed on to their surviving son, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  

I sorted through the items, hauling out four more large bags of trash. From that room, I only toted home one small box. But, what interesting items I found. The tiny gold ring, a baby’s ring or a pinky ring, pictured above, obviously belonged to someone. The little wooden frame is handmade. Unfortunately, there’s nothing written on the back to tell the ring’s story. And now, no one to ask about it. Into the Keep Box it went. 


My grandson Dayan helped me properly identify this cow bell! I sent him a pic and an inquiry about the country of origin. I was thinking Peruvian. It’s Swiss. He’s such a smart young man. One of Peterson’s world traveling sales reps must have brought this piece home to Leta. Her home is an international bazaar of goodies. I kept this quirky bell too. 

This cute little chick, made from modeling dough allowed to hardened and then painted, brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. On the bottom is scratched “EM”…Elissa Moore. There’s no date but she was a just wee girl when she made this for her Mimi. And Mimi loved it and kept it. This big-eyed guy went into the Keep Box, to be given to the artist. Elissa was happy that I found him. 


I found this unusual item, made of brass, that I had never seen before. I picked up the duck head, wondering where the rest of him went!  On closer examination, I discovered it is a pencil sharpener. That made me laugh. I can use this conversation starter with my colored pencils, and think of Leta every time I use it. 


As I was finishing up in the spare room, I picked up one last item. I didn’t want it. The kids didn’t either. It had no value at all. The beach ball, still inflated, had been hidden away, in the closet, for at least 25 years. That’s no exaggeration. My children are all in their thirties. It has been many, many years since they have batted this colorful ball around. 

As I held the somewhat squishy ball, a thought struck me. Papa Bob, or perhaps even Mimi Leta, blew this ball up for the grandkids, long, long ago. I was holding their breath, literally in my hands. Breath…air exhaled from the lungs…synonymous with life. 

In that quiet, now sacred space, I slowly pulled the plug on the ball. Hesitating for just a moment, holding my breath, I squeezed on the beach ball, releasing the air within, releasing so much more. Fearing the air would be stale, I nonetheless directed that pent up breath into my face, inhaling deeply. The air was cold, sweet, with no hint of staleness. 

I stood there, eyes closed, breathing in the air that Bob or Leta used to inflate that ball for my kids. Their beautiful grandchildren. What fun and loving grandparents they were. What precious people who enjoyed life. I breathed in the essence of their lives, spent now as this ball was spent, an empty shell. 

The tears started. I surrendered to them. Releasing tears. Cleansing tears. Grateful tears. It was time to go home. 


Journey 121: We’re Not in Kansas Anymore…Oh Wait, Yes We Are!


Today my mom and I journeyed across Kansas again, bound for her sister’s house near Wichita. Exactly one month ago we said “see you later” to my sweet Aunt Annie. Today we met with two of Annie’s children, my cousins, as they are sorting through their parents’ belongings, in preparation for selling the house. 

It’s a bittersweet task. Memories swirl and tears flow and laughter rings out as stories are told. In fact, each item in the house has a story attached to it. My mom and cousins and I don’t always know the whole tale, which leads to wonderment and speculation. What a precious time we all spent this evening, cradling items, remembering, exclaiming over an uncovered treasure. My cousins are the most gracious of people, keeping a few keepsakes for themselves and sharing with the rest of the family so that we can all cherish an item that belonged to my aunt or my grandmother or even my great-great-grandmother. I’m so grateful for them. 

Monday happens to be one of my cousin’s birthday. Greg is having one of those milestone birthdays and it was fun to visit with him and his wife tonight, reminiscing and laughing over one of my mom’s favorite stories about her nephew. 

She was only 15 years old when Greg was born. She claims he was the most adorable baby and toddler. If this normally sweet boy was being a bit ornery, my just as ornery mother brought him into obedience by telling him there was a chicken hawk down the road that was going to get him. 

Greg says it was several years before he even knew what a chicken hawk was! And that they didn’t gobble up wayward boys. The words “chicken hawk” still bring a smile to his face. I’ve always admired and appreciated my eldest cousin. With two sisters and four female cousins, the poor guy was badly outnumbered yet he never complained and was patient and kind to all the girls in the family. 

We all dined this evening at a small  family owned restaurant featuring seafood. The fish and shrimp were excellent and the servings plentiful. Greg, ever generous, shared his gator with any of us who wanted a bite. I’ve never sampled gator before. It was  so good! 

Tomorrow is another day of sorting and visiting and remembering. In the midst of it all, I am reminded that we are so much more than the earthly possessions that we accumulate. However, when one who is dear departs, going where we cannot yet follow, it is so comforting to hold in our hands an item that connects us to that loved one, to memories of days long past. I feel the energy, the spirit of my aunt on these things she once used and cherished. I am grateful for these mementos of her life.