For the better part of the past 18 years my mother bugged me to get the last remnants of my property out of her house.
Last weekend — a little more than a month after my mother passed away — I finally honored her wishes and, with more than a little guilt at not having done it sooner, removed the last of my junk from her house. Knowing my mother (and her sense of humor), I can’t help but think she was watching from somewhere up above and saying, “Had I known that’s what it was going to take to get your stuff out of my house, I would have done it sooner.”
Sorry, Mom. You should know me well enough to know that with the exception of writing stories on deadline, doing things in a timely fashion has never been my strong suit.
Of course, it had never been my intention to use my mom’s residence as a storage facility for my old “Star Wars” action figures, pro wrestling magazines and obsolete cassette tapes — it just sort of happened. When I went away to college, my parents allowed me to leave my room intact, so I would feel comfortable when I came home to visit.
When I graduated from college, I began working at the Troy Daily News and — having neither a roommate willing to put up with me or the funding to get my own place — I decided I’d live with my parents for a little while until my situation improved. Little did I realize, however, that “a little while” would turn into nearly five years. I would live with my parents until I was nearly 28, when I finally moved out and into an apartment with my newlywed wife.
My wife, by the way, has taken up my mom’s goal of trying to coerce me to downsize what she calls “junk.” (I call it “items that may one day be necessary for survival of the species” … but hey, to-may-to, to-mah-to, I suppose). My wife, it bears mentioning, has had about as much success as my mother did.
In any event, not only was my old bedroom filled with all of the stuff I had before I left for college, but then it was filled with all of the stuff I had collected in my four years in college. Then it was further filled with the items I procured when I lived there.
In other words, it was pretty much enough to drive my neat-freak mother to her breaking point. As a concession to her, I did throw away some of my stuff. I took much of it with me to my house, where most of it now sits in giant plastic bins in our garage and is a constant source of friction between me and my lovely wife.
And, of course, there was some of it my mother took upon herself to throw away. Most of the final category of stuff includes rare action figures and priceless comic books that, if sold, would have raised more than enough for me to buy metric tons of more stuff.
Still, though, through the many purgings — some voluntary, some done under a cloak of darkness by my mother — I always managed to leave a few things behind.
As I was (finally) cleaning out the last of my belongings, however, I realized something.
I realized I may not be back before the house is sold. It will be weird not swinging by Dartmouth Road whenever I needed a good meal or someone to talk to.
You always made that house a home, Mom. Many of the best times of my life were there. When we were all there, especially with your five kids and 14 grandkids, it was like the house was a living, breathing entity. It was a part of us. The walls dripped with laughter, love, loss and memories.
It was so much more than a brick and mortar building. It was a safe haven where anyone was welcome. Come on in and pull up a chair at the kitchen table. My mom was always willing to listen and offer advice. Are you hungry? My mom always made enough food, just in case there were a few unexpected mouths to feed.
It’s weird to think one day it will be another family in that house, making their own lifetime of memories … and collecting lots of stuff.
David Fong writes for the Troy Daily News, a division of AIM Media Midwest.