Excavating a Home: An Archeological Dig, Part Eight

I dreamed about the excavation this week. Maybe it’s time to get back to the dig site; it’s been a while.

I pressed the peignoir I had washed to give to my sister. As I ironed, I imagined my young mother doing the same in the rooms she and her new husband rented in Dallas in the home of an older couple, with whom they shared a kitchen, before my father embarked for Europe. How many times did she wear it? How was her wedding night? Would she have told me what I want now to know about it? The gown and robe are incredibly soft. I wish they fit me. 

The last thing I did before I took a hiatus was clean out the metal craft cabinet. Yes, more crafts; I thought I was done. It’s not a surprise that this room is full of my mother’s crafting: supplies, project starts, notes of ideas, instructions torn from magazines and newspapers, books, other people’s work. When my father built a new workshop over the carport, the old workshop became hers. She must have been over the moon to have a room of her own, other than the kitchen. 

The metal cabinet, though, is filled with children’s art supplies. I have to move my mother’s golf clubs to get to it. She played golf when she lived in Florida with her parents during the War. I didn’t know her ever to have played here. I move the sturdy drying rack that probably has been in my mother’s home for some 75 years, it’s price-marked $1.98. I also shift the large roll of upholstery fabric to the side; my sister helped Mama choose it to re-pad and re-cover the dining chairs. It likely never happened because my mother probably never really liked it and didn’t want to spend the money to get the job done. She didn’t like change in her older years.

And what about that heavier than crap ancient Coleman cooler that carried so many picnics and camping food? I throw out two of six other coolers, but can’t yet send this one to the grave, even though it isn’t usable.

When I open the cabinet, I’m overcome with sadness that my mother’s four grandchildren lived on the other side of the country. They were not here much, and they were older when they did come. She would have been an amazing Nana to small children. She was ready with the supplies and gladly would have spent full days creating with them. Some of these supplies were probably left over from the craft drawer in the kitchen in my childhood: the oldest crayons for sure, and the box of 48 with built-in sharpener and Becky’s name on it. The “What Can I Do Now?” book is no longer here, but I found a photo of it on Amazon (not available). 

She collected paper of all sorts, odds and ends (including the metal strips from food wrap boxes, which seem a little dangerous to me), paint and (more) brushes, supplies for making valentines, (more) pictures torn from magazines, glue, felt. I would have been well-supplied for Pandemic School, but they brought boxes of their own “maker” supplies. I scared the bejeezus out of the Littles at Halloween that year, wearing the bird mask. I wish I had realized there was also a wig.

Crafting has been well-documented in these posts. But all good things come to an end. I think I’ve finally found it all.

While I’m in the back corner, I go through the bookcase, throwing travel guides in the recycling, leaving a stack of tattered Little Golden Books, the Childcraft Poems of Early Childhood Vol. 1, Rebecca’s complete set of Little House books, and books featuring characters named Becky or Rebecca. (Children’s books did not have protagonists named Gretchen or Jo Ann.) I also return to the shelf my mother’s textbooks from her one year of college, and “the only book of value” that she remembers being in her house growing up (copyright 1912). There’s a coffee can of Mt. St. Helens ash. When I asked my mother what my father did with the tons of ash he shoveled off the flat roof of the house, she didn’t remember. Well, he saved a good bit of it. There are kitty litter buckets full of it in the shed, dishpans full under the shed, cans in the workshop, and now here is more.

Moving on, I pull out the trunk labeled “Mom’s things” and try to estimate how long it’s been here. My grandmother moved from apartment living, briefly to my parent’s home (probably with this trunk, along with two suitcases that are still here, one containing dress up clothes from my childhood), then into a series of nursing home facilities. She died in 1988 at age 99. You do the math.

I lift the creaky lid to boxes of tchotchkes, photographs, and plastic bags of postcards, greeting cards, and letters written by her children—including from my mother when away on trips to the east coast to visit children and business trips in the US and abroad with my dad—and grandchildren. She must have treasured and kept every one. I keep those from my mother and sisters and discard the rest. The knickknacks go in the thrift store box or the trash, except for a new addition for my creche. 

There’s also a newspaper clipping that appears to be cut for some sort of pattern. There’s no date, but Alf Landon, governor of Kansas, was the 1936 unsuccessful Republican candidate against incumbent Franklin Roosevelt.

“The New Deal greatly increases our taxes. The New Deal invades state’s rights. The New Deal restricts individual rights. The New Deal interferes with local self-government of men rather than a government of law. The New Deal is the frame work of a tyranny and has no regard for the property of an individual or for his liberty. The New Deal seeks to destroy the authority of the judiciary, usurp the functions of the legislature and augment the power of the executive. In short, if the New Dealers are permitted to have their way, there will be nothing distinctive left of our American system of government.”

Sounds familiar.  

Visiting the audiologist last week for my hearing aid six month review, I donated my mother’s single aid to the Lions Club box, adding to the list of things I’ve kept out of the landfill. I’m heading for the recycling center again. This time I have the two dozen glass baby food jars I had thought to save. For what, I don’t know, other than pureed baby food comes in plastic now. This task requires ruthless tossing ability.

9 thoughts on “Excavating a Home: An Archeological Dig, Part Eight

  1. The first and last parts of this really resonated. “No great change can occur until our sleep is disturbed”.  Dreaming about it must mean something, though I have no idea what it would be. I am nowhere near “ruthless tossing ability”. I’d be happy with moderate measured throws. These are great posts. I love all the artifacts. I should have had you save a yardstick. When you find clothespins, call me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I still have the yard sticks. I think the clothespins from that room went away when I cleared the workbench at the beginning of the Big Dig (not sure), but there might be more in the laundry room.

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  2. Ah, glass baby food jars. They’re in demand by crafters of various persuasions, especially if the lids are there. And the Coleman cooler. We finally said farewell to the companion camp stove several years ago (non-working; ran on white gas). Both were going-away gifts when our father left the Forest Service for Weyerhaeuser. They knew him well.

    Liked by 1 person

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