As I discussed in my previous post, keeping vs. tossing an identifiable “mom-ism” is a common theme in my life since my mom’s death.
Things that fall into the “TOSS” pile:
1. Compulsive record keeping
2. Tax filing procrastination
3. Defying the Internet (paying bills vis-à-vis snail mail, etc.)
4. Late night feasting on Entenmann’s chocolate glazed donuts
Things that fall into the “KEEP” pile:
1. Triple-checking that the front door is locked before leaving home
2. Negotiating for discounts
3. Thoroughly washing fruit before consumption
4. A “waste not, want not” mentality of using every last drop of shampoo/hand soap/face wash/dish detergent/etc. – even if it means cutting off the end of a plastic container.
Despite the lists above, I white-lied about something. (Forgive me.) I haven’t completely tossed my mother’s compulsive record keeping tendency. Let me rewind a bit….
When I was cleaning out her apartment, I did in fact come upon receipts, records and notes older than my high school age cousins. These I tossed.
But here’s what I also found: Dialogue between my mom and me when I was very young that she transcribed, relating to my father’s death. These notes are scribbled on newspaper scraps, backs of envelopes, notebook pages, a magazine cover, anything she could find – almost as if she was worried that our words would disappear or she would forget our exchange if she didn’t immediately jot it down.
See the first example below:
And here’s another, the date (not pictured) says this exchange occurred a couple days later:
When I first came upon the faded manila folder, opened it and the confetti of newspaper scraps and other pieces of paper cascaded over the edges to the floor, I was dumbfounded. I was dumbfounded because my mom told me everything. She loved telling me stories about my toddler years. She pretty much chronicled every moment of my childhood with either a VHS camcorder or Canon A-1 camera, and on the rare occasion when there wasn’t a picture to show for it, Mom pressed replay on her stories over and over again. So I was dumbfounded that there were so many stories and moments documented on these scraps that I had never heard before.
Then, an acute feeling of sorrow took over, causing my knees to buckle. The pain of reading the notes pertaining to my mother’s mission to help me make sense of my father’s death was heart wrenching. I imagined how alone she was and how strong she was trying to be while she mourned for her husband, with only a toddler at home for company. And then, as if evil irony had come to wreck havoc on me, I had discovered this material shortly after her own death. I cried my eyes out.
Did I throw out the manila folder? Absolutely not. After I resurfaced from the trenches of astonishment and grief, I realized that these records offer me something that my mother can no longer give me: History. Oral tradition. Lessons from a mother to a mother-to-be one day. Stories from a grandmother my children will never know.
The contents of the manila folder are almost 30 years old, but these scraps I’m keeping. And perhaps, subconsciously, I’ve become somewhat of a compulsive record keeper myself. For one, I’m blogging about my life in the aftermath of my mother’s death, right?
And one day, I hope my children will read my posts. I’ve certainly made it pretty easy for them; they’ll only need a web address as opposed to navigating a confetti storm of paper scraps. (At least I tossed my mother’s “Defy the Internet” mom-ism.)