Relics

Mom's empty room

Mom’s empty room. The_DoodlerCC BY_SA

So many stories 

in every room

in every thing.

A lifetime packed

tight in every closet

in every drawer

for even in the time

of abundance 

the memory of deprivation

remained.

A lifetime of love

recorded in cards and letters

all saved 

even poems 

I don’t remember writing.

The photos of my children

so carefully preserved

growing up all over again

here in my hands.

Their father captured 

as a  little boy

in black and white

long ago.

His own father in uniform

smiling, alive

his olive-green dress hats

sealed in a bag 

on a shelf 

deep in her closet.

The ghost of holidays past

pulled from the attic 

with childhood toys

long forgotten.

Tarnished silver in the kitchen

and a fine layer of dust

on the crystal. 

Cookies in a jar

grown stale 

maybe in hopes of

grandchildren coming.

Things with no explanation

only wonder 

as to what they are

and what they’re for. 

So many stories

in rooms once beautiful

in every thing crammed

holding on, holding on

in the hidden places.

A lifetime packed

with living

and loving.

Decades of

acquiring

prospering

overcoming

remembering

all dismantled 

and disposed of

in the space of

a single afternoon.

17 thoughts on “Relics

  1. “Decades of acquiring, prospering, overcoming, remembering” love the use of verbs here. They move the reader through time in four lines. This poem is so thoughtful and full of many emotions. It reminds me of venturing into my husbands grandmothers attic. It was loaded with all that you have said here. Thanks for bringing up a pleasant memory for me!

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    • So glad the poem brought back the pleasant memory of your attic jaunt. Thanks for your comments on the verbs – while there was a silence to the house, and to all the inanimate objects, they were all imparting the story of life as it was being lived. Hard to convey – I am glad to know the verbs did so.

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  2. Although personal, your poem is so universal, the touching of things that evoke memories people and places and events, that stir our emotions and bring the past into the present.

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  3. The past so tenderly wrapped in this poem. Memories linked to items, so hard to let go, but so necessary. This is not a task I relish taking on when my mother or father-in-law is gone.

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    • I think, among the range of emotions I felt while going through my in-law’s house and all their things, that one of the greatest was gratitude for the sense of belonging imparted to me, that my story had become interwoven with all of theirs. This helped with plowing through the work and letting go, although the piercing of loss is deep.

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  4. Your words are beautiful. Having done this twice while downsizing my mom to move into assissted living, I know how difficult it can be. So many things hold precious memories. Now that I am within a decade of retirement, I am starting to look around my house to see what I can purge. I know my children do not want to be left with a lot of “stuff.” Afterall, memories are in the heart not in the things.

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    • Thank you, Rita, and your point about memories being in the heart, not in things, is so true. My children, having cleaned out their grandmother’s attic, have said they’re NOT going through this again and I am to purge now! One of the things that haunts me about this experience is that my mother-in-law spent a lifetime collecting and treasuring what she had, and it took the family one afternoon to dispose of it all. Unnerving.

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    • “Haunting” is the most succinct word to summarize the experience itself; that’s what it was, truly. I was prepared for the work, to have to make hard decisions to not keep a lot of stuff, to mourn the loss of my mother-in-law and father-in-law anew, but what I hadn’t anticipated was the “voice” of the house itself, my husband’s childhood home, telling me: “I have been a mainstay, a harbor, an anchor for you for the majority of your life. Farewell.” I am grappling with that still. Thank you, Amanda.

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  5. So yesterday, when I was at my parents’ house, I had the morbid thought of how I will ever be able to cope when the day comes when I will need to clean out their home. It was almost unbearable. I’m an only child who is super-close with my parents.

    I read your poem and feel the sense of loss, love, and longing. I don’t know how you were able to manage all of those emotions as you went through a lifetime of stuff and memories. Thank you for writing and bravely sharing this with all of us.

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    • Thank you for reading, Stacey, and for sharing your response to my poem. Although it feels morbid and unbearable, and while your heart recoils from the very idea of losing parents and having to clean out their house, that logical part of your brain is bracing itself … I hope that time is a long, long way off for you and yours. Among the emotions that flooded me that day was gratitude. Part of the loss was tied to having to dispose of so many things that had been lovingly tended for so long. It almost felt like devaluing my mother-in-law’s life. The family kept a few things, of course, but the bulk had to go. In everything, I saw a story of love and survival. Again, the struggle with head vs. heart. Thank you again for your words.

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  6. So much life, and love, and joy, and sadness in these words. You can tell that the love remains, as well as the ache of loneliness that comes from missing her. Beautiful!
    I went to an estate sale last week. Someone’s life laid out bare, to be rummaged through by strangers adding to their collections. No sense of connection at all. I left quickly. I can tell you lingered and remembered through this process. So much better.

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    • Thank you for your words – how neatly you’ve summarized my feelings, especially the ache. As to that estate sale and people rummaging: I can so understand how this affected you. As we filled a dumpster with my mother-in-law’s things that had to go, people drove up to ask a lot of questions about what we were doing, maybe just to see what was there. This felt like an invasion of our privacy, that these people were like buzzards circling. I almost put this in the poem but didn’t have the heart – so I am awed that you picked up the thread!

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  7. Cleaning out my mom’s house after losing her suddenly was the most overwhelming thing I’ve ever face. Touching things she had in her hand the day before and yet feeling her absence. You captured that feeling I had.

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    • My heart aches just thinking of you having to clean out your mother’s house after losing her unexpectedly. So many emotions at once – I am not sure I can name them all. As I went through my mother-in-law’s home for what is surely one of the last times (I could add that to my heart map!) I thought about how much of my own life is anchored here. Within the sense of loss and finality there’s also gratitude. Thank you for your words. 🙂

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