Craig and I are in North Dakota. Along with his dad, 4 brothers and wives, we are packing up the house and shop. Packing everything in boxes, shallow boxes, so people coming to the auction will be able to see what is inside without disturbing, breaking or hiding something valuable in a box of doodads worth a buck. As the 4 long trailers slowly fill up, the reality starts having a dark dimension. Gordon and Myrtle have been married 60 plus years and the boxes represent everything in their life. Some things were scrimped, sacrificed and saved for-yearned for.
There are dish sets that were added to one piece at a time. Furniture which has been redone over and over again, re-apolstered, re-finished. The cream separator from when Gordon and his boys milked cows twice a day. The same cows who tied them down to the farm so that vacations were special and rare. The cows who were literally their bread and butter, grocery money week to week. The hand crank drill press that has been in the shop for so long that nobody remembers it not being there. It has a fly wheel the size of a ferris wheel......where are the little people going to play at night? There were boxes and boxes of cards recived by everyone over the years for birthdays, anniversaries, thank you grandma, etc. Saved because.......we don't know for sure, but probably because life on the farm can be lonely and somewhat isolated, especially a farm buried in a little town surrounded by wheat fields, sunflower fields, cow pastures, sloughs full of cattails, rock piles, corn, soy and hay. Saved for the same reason she fed and watered her yard full of birds and planted lovely flower beds. Saved because they were a pretty, colorful bright spot in her day, her life. Something to savor over and over again.
I completely broke down last night. Each of these words are a tear. Each sentence a sob. Coming home, won't be coming home any longer. It is finished, that part. Only death is more final. The auction tomorrow will seem like a funeral, except the auctioneer gets paid. Gordon will make some money, feel lighter in so many ways and have some freedom from endless chores. It is a good thing, but doesn't feel good. We're just doing it sooner than later. Will the emptiness fill again? I know in my knower that it is people, experiences, memories which make our lives full, not things! But what has been unexpected is how symbolic the things are, how they represent a person.
The boys wanted each of their children to have a keepsake of grandma's. There were enough collectible plates to go around. Myrtle used to have one wall by the huge table completely covered with nursery rhyme plates which she had collected one at a time. When the grandkids came, they would beg her to 'tell the plates' meaning, tell the story behind the picture on the front. She would patiently go through each one till there weren't any more. They would snuggle as close as possibe, the smaller ones crowded on her lap. Brita and Tess remember caressing her soft, velvety elbows while she spoke. All of us have a house full of our own things, we don't need or want much of anything from the boxes. Her handwritten notebook of recipes is sweet, but my kids would just have to haul it away with my stuff someday.
There were games and puzzles that had been so well used, that the box had layers of tape on the corners holding them together. A bookshelf Craig made in shop when he was in 9th grade, always in a place of honor.
That big old house, held together by thick layers of wallpaper soaked with love, laughter, memories, tears, scents of meals and music, won't fall and rot away by the searing summers and desperate winters. It makes it easier and we are so grateful. It helps that a young, energetic, hopeful farmboy, his wife and two children will carry on the tradition of family farming, right there, collecting their own memories which will all be boxed up someday too.