Sifting through Memories

My sister and I recently had the responsibility of preparing our deceased parents’ house for sale. My dad had moved to long term care after my mother died, but all of their things were still in the house after having lived there for 25+ years. And, everything from their previous households had moved there with them, so there was quite a bit of “stuff.” Boxes in the attic contained dolls from my childhood and my siblings’ childhood, as well as our baby clothes. We even came across an outfit that my dad (born in 1919) had worn as a toddler in some of his early photos.

I never knew my sister Zee Ann because she died in a car accident at 3 years old, before I was born. When going through the boxes from the attic, we found a child’s red train case with the name “Zee” painted on it. Inside were my deceased sister’s baby things—a small pink rattle, baby bracelet from the hospital, a lock of hair, tiny hair curlers. My heart ached, knowing the heartbreak my mother would have felt as she put these things in the case.   All of the baby things associated with hope and promise for the future, and yet she had to close them away in a case and put them in the attic.

Zee Ann's case
Zee Ann’s case

We smiled when we reviewed her Abilene High School annual and found her full page photo labeled “Most Friendly” from the Class of 1936. There were so many kind notes from her friends. “Swell” must have been a word used often back then–maybe kind of like “awesome” is used now.

I had such mixed feelings about letting their things go. It was clearly not practical or helpful to keep too many “things.” Just the fact that we were having to sort through so many items was reason to let go. And yet so many items were tangible reminders of my childhood. I had to tell myself that the memory itself is what matters. I selected a few items to keep, lots of photos to scan, and pulled away from the house.

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My heart ached for the tribulations my parents had to suffer—my brother’s developmental disability, my sister’s death. I wished life had been easier for them. I thought about this on the drive back home from Fort Worth to San Antonio. Unfortunately, the traffic was horrific that 4th of July weekend. I keep my lavender essential oil and Joy essential oil blend handy when I’m driving. I used some in my car diffuser, on my neck and forehead, and just inhaled some from the bottle. After 20 minutes I was less sad, more calm, and breathing easier.

I remembered that am grateful for an upbringing full of love and care from my parents. And we had happy times as a family. I hope they felt love from my sister Lyn and me at even a fraction of the love they gave us.

Jan and Lyn, circa 1959
Jan and Lyn, circa 1959
Lyn and Jan, 2016
Lyn and Jan, 2016