I took time off from the dig to create gifts for my sisters from my mother’s collections for craft projects. Box after box of pressed leaves and flowers, unfinished batiks, feathers, beach stones and shells and driftwood. In one box was this note of forgiveness in my mother’s hand for having more ideas than follow through:
Like my mother, I throw a lot of mud; I understand her. I inhaled the forgiveness for both of us.
I had the gift idea before I found this note in another box.
But when I uncovered the details of her idea, I knew this was a way to honor her, to follow through on one of her visions. I Googled how to get the wax out of batiks and then cut three pieces from the roll of several unfinished designs I found in the cupboard wrapped around a gift wrap tube. (I recycled two boxes full of cardboard tubes, by the way). I gathered three shadow box frames—two newly purchased and one from an undone idea of my own—and cannibalized three found frames for glass to hold the the leaves and flowers in place inside. Armed with a hot glue gun and her shells, rocks, and stones, I made my creations, taping Mama’s notes to the back. One is on my wall, my sisters received theirs under the tree; Rebecca was a little teary. I hope Mama is pleased.
I also made a collection for her #4 great-grandson, the budding naturalist. I saved a vintage velveteen-covered box from the collection of small boxes—a Lactopine bath oil label on the bottom, which of course I Googled: “Swiss Pine, mmm it smells divine.” I lined it with cotton and placed some delicate treasures inside. Adrian was enchanted.
As I clean out my mother’s collections in the basement room, I find myself divesting of my own stuff upstairs—along with Mama’s things I had left there, because I might use them, or because there was room there and the storage room was having digestive issues. Now I open a drawer or a cupboard to get something I need and remove things I don’t. I add several small Pyrex baking dishes to the thrift store box, throw away socks I never wear, and put more books in the box for the AAUW sale. I’m losing weight every day.
In full disclosure, in times past when I did a bit of “sorting” (not to be confused with casting out, though I sometimes did and was always busted), I occasionally found something I loved and rescued it from its cardboard tomb. Like these pitchers, which now live out loud in an open cabinet in the kitchen.
After the snowy holidays, I venture back to the site, moving on to the open shelves of boxes. Believe it or not, this is not my first stab at these shelves. I had to make room to add more stuff during the upstairs clean-out a couple years ago.
I begin with the bottom shelf. My mother’s collection of pictures torn from magazines and old calendars for collage projects is even bigger than mine, and I think of it in a plastic drawer in the workshop over the carport, wondering if I should add hers to mine before I dump it in the recycling box. But I need to add mine to hers, not vice versa. I do neither. I need to stay focused: one room, one corner, one shelf at a time.
Behind the collage box is ANOTHER box of driftwood and shells. I could start my own beach. I’m beginning to love finding them, though, they are easy to dispose of. The hardest part of this very challenging task is my reluctance to add to the landfill. Not everything can be recycled, reused, or repurposed. That may be part of why my mother didn’t do this task: she simply did not know what to do with it all.
So great is my landfill resistance, that I have a box of things to put in the garden. Someone in the future can put it in the landfill; or maybe it will get buried and become part the earth, dug up in another archeological dig.
Hardest of all will be things with sentimental value, and for now I am avoiding those boxes, saving them for sisters’ time. But they will have to be dealt with at some point, and my chest gets tight. What does one do with the artifacts of one’s past? And of the evidence that there was life in the family before birth? And of creative work lovingly made?
But, back to crafts. I move up a shelf to fabric. The quilting years. My mother sorted the collection, sort of, which helps. I go through it all, tossing the tiny scraps into a bag for textile recycling, making sure the cotton and cotton blends are all in one box. I send a message to the local quilting guild. They would love to have it for quilts they donate to hospitals, the kidney dialysis center, and homeless shelters. Score!
Finding places that really need stuff is the best part of this task, and I’m getting pretty good at it. My daughter-in-love says she will take the pile of felt squares. (I have a rather large box of stuff she has agreed to take; my daughter will kill her, and me, if it ends up at their house and not in her classroom.) I hope I can find a place for the large box of velveteen and corduroy other than recycling.
I pull out a shirt box of leaves placed in paper towels between the pages of a 1976 Better Homes & Gardens magazine and a 1977 Time Magazine. Are you kidding me? It’s not until I find another box with the beginnings of a project that I understand her intention, if not exactly her visualization. A nature quilt.
I put it all in the proper relocation boxes, but save the snowberries. I rather love it.
Last up on the third shelf is silk screening. Mama did love that art, and completed several scarves (they are in another box), using both commercial and homemade dyes and leaves and flowers for stencils. There is a box of unused silk to find a home for and several practice pieces. I save the peace dove.
Moving to the bottom shelf, I open the proof of another passion: patron of native arts. For most of my life in this house, I was surrounded by Native American basketry, mostly created by women of the local Chehalis Tribe, but also from Nations in the southeast, the southwest, and Alaska. She also purchased exquisite needlework created by the Laotian refugees who briefly settled in town. These are things I have no idea what to do with, but know recipients must be chosen with great care, holding her respect for the artists and for their work.
That’s enough words for today. Next up: fashion! I end the day loading three boxes of books into the car of Mama’s friend, Donna, for the book sale. Today I will go boldly into the pouring rain to deliver the box of quilt fabric and take another shitload of paper and cardboard to the recycling center. Making progress and feeling good about it—if I keep the doors on the wall of cabinets closed and ignore the fact that none of the books came from the floor to ceiling bookcase at the foot of the stairs.