We are surrounded by newspaper, my mom and I, newspaper and glass dishes and memories. We are determinedly not discussing the memories– the beautiful crystal that belonged to Grandma, the salt shakers she got for her wedding. We work quickly and we talk about the mundane, the kids and our clothes and what needs to go in this box and what needs to go in that and whether or not I need another vase.
I prefer the kind of mother-daughter bonding that involves ice cream or shopping.
This china cabinet belonged to my grandmother and now belongs to my mother and it is irreplaceable and so we are packing up its contents so that it can be moved to higher ground. Later we will go up to the attic and locate my collection of china dolls, and the box containing my kindergarten diploma and the potholder I destroyed in seventh grade home ec and a bunch of other important memories, and the blue tub containing my lovingly packed away wedding dress and veil and shoes.
I didn’t really grow up in this house. We moved here when I was just a week away from sixteen, and the years when I lived here were tumultuous at best. But my parents have lived here ever since– sixteen more years have passed since they first moved this china cabinet into this living room. Since then– high school boys that no one wants to remember and college acceptance letters and Christmas mornings and bringing home “the one.” Art and I held hands in this room for the very first time. We kissed as the clock struck midnight on Y2K. I ran out that door on the morning of my wedding only to return five minutes later for the veil I had forgotten.
Sixteen years and we have filled this house with memories and laughter– and tears, of course– and grandbabies (eight so far) and the house bursts at the seams when we all come together for that one magical weekend in the summer. Next door, the church where I celebrated my high school graduation and walked up the aisle to marry the man God gave me.
The river rises and everything is so uncertain. The next time I return here– what will I find?
Another box full.
These are just things, just places. The people and the memories are safe. This is what is important, right? And yet somehow even the sticky cupboard doors in the kitchen seem a part of me and it is a wrench to drive away, my van full of just things– just things. I don’t know what will happen next.
We are tied together with these strings, and they seem so fragile now. Everything so very fragile.
Like Grandma’s crystal.