Friday, August 7, 2009

Life in Boxes

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.


Shelley said...

I just have to comment on this post even tho, generally, I am a "lurker". This one hits so close to home for me. I, being the auction clerk, have been witness to this process for many years, and yet, so many of them are so hard for me. It IS, as you say, someone's life in those boxes, and generally speaking, it tells their story. Some of those stories are so happy, and some so very sad. It also, marks the end of an "era" for some, and new beginnings for others. I hope, that in this instance, that the family comes away with memories of lives well lived and the thoughts of memories yet to be made.

Bree said...

Kathleen, thanks for sharing. And I have to say I sit here, tears rolling down my face as I recall the auctioning of my grandmas things. Even to this day, someone will say, "hey whatever happened to that really great bundt pan" or whatever and the response is ohh it must have sold at the auction. But then with great joy I get to say that I have the chance of a lifetime to carry on some of those memories. To carry on those things that ARE important. The bundt cake PAN isn't what we're missing, but sitting around in the living room EATING bundt cake and enjoying one anothers company. It's the laughter in the walls that we miss...those can happen anywhere...our memories can be lived out wherever we want!

KoverB said...

Thanks for the encouragement and understanding Shelley and Bree! We need it!

Pam said...

Kathleen -- thank you for this touching post! More though - thank you for staying with us this past week! I cherish your friendship so much, your heart, your hugs, your grace, your listening ears, your belly laugh and the sharing of the tears running down your face from laughter and sorrows shared ---- you are a treasure in my life!!! Pam

Pam said...

P.S. I DID IT!!! I posted as a BLOGGER - WOOT WOO - you better be proud of me ---
P.S.S. Let us know when you get home! When in the world did you leave? We didn't hear you at all - you are in a little trouble for not waking us up for goodbyes!!
P.S.S. THANK YOU again for the beautiful bracelet - and for the lotion AND you left some "stuff" in the shower - oh well, now I get to smell like you for awhile!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathleen
Wondered where you went this time, had a feeling you were to quiet and probably out of town.
My heart goes out to Craig, his Dad and all of you, I remember how it was to empty Grandma's house and then Ingemars, glad I will not have to move again, it will you kids doing it. When I had the antique store I always felt so bad when people came in wanting me to buy a trunk of treasures from a grandma who had passed away.
anyway enjoyed your post.