Archives for posts with tag: memories

There are so many articles about uncluttering your home, getting rid of your stuff, simplifying everything. I start on a project like this and realize that I actually live in a scrapbook, a living scrapbook.

When I was a little girl, I always had a bulletin board and kept a scrapbook. Nothing was too insignificant to me if it reminded me of someone special or something that happened that I didn’t want to forget – ever! This is a habit that has never left me and it now adds up to 72 years this week of my life as scattered all around me.

I’m not sure if it bothers me enough or if it bothers me at all, to tell the truth. I’m more amused by it when I should be horrified. Maybe I’m just defending myself so that my daughters will laugh as they dig through when I’m gone – one of these days. Not leaving yet!

I mean, what do you do when you look on a shelf and find your own teddy bear from babyhood (music box inside it is broken – wonder what it played?) sitting next to your husband’s teddy bear?  Personally, I smile. Just so you know how bad it is – I also have my Daddy’s teddy bear and my son’s collection of bears.


When dusting my mantel, I pick up each of these old elephants and feel the smooth wood. Daddy brought these home from the war when he was stationed in Africa. My brother, sister and I played with them, hence the lost tusks and glued on trunks.


I don’t have anything stored in this old metal box, but I opened it many times during my childhood to see what Daddy kept inside. It’s still mysterious to me and that’s just fine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s another music box. My husband bought this one for me in Switzerland. We wanted another one, but this was the one we could afford and its melody reminds me of that trip so many years ago.


You see what the dangers are as I dig through a lifetime of little things that all bring a special moment or place or a beloved face to mind. There are memories on every shelf, every table, in every drawer. Where do I start to erase them? Which ones do I let go, wondering if they will be lost forever if I don’t have this little memento, this scrap of paper with handwriting so familiar, this memory of a laugh or tear?

Now it’s time to decorate for the holidays and I have way too many decorations, especially Santas. There are some I can let go when I feel like it, but mostly I just like them. Here is a picture of my kitchen window last year. In it I see a tall skinny Santa from my childhood, one that my husband bought me at a gallery in New Orleans, a couple that my kids bought me with their little hard earned coins and bills, one made by a lifelong friend, another given by a friend who died way too young, some from a volunteer project I worked on as a young mother, and others collected from travels or from artists or because I liked them.DSC_0174Imagine a house full of memories like that and you are with me. I’m going to keep trying to shed things that are meaningless, if there is such a thing in my life. I’m going to keep trying because it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. In the meantime, my memories are refreshed all the time and that’s not such a bad thing for an old lady.

I’m a picture taker. I hesitate to call myself a photographer because I don’t really take the time to use all the stops and lens and filters I could use. It’s been something I’ve done since I got my first Kodak Brownie camera when I was 12. I took a class when my kids were little and learned to use the darkroom, which I never used again. I took away from that class an understanding of the way you can manipulate photos to make them better after you’ve snapped the shot, an appreciation of light. Today, I do that with a computer, cropping and fixing as I go.

Mostly, I’m capturing my memories, the pictures of my mind. Maybe I think I’ll lose them otherwise, but I do go through my photos all the time, just as I went through my  grandparents’ photos when I was a little girl. Both my maternal grandmother and my paternal grandparents kept all their photos in the top drawer of a dresser. I guess that’s what people did if they didn’t put them in an album. I should have asked them more questions about the people in the pictures. I definitely should have.

Maybe it’s my impatience or my lack of discipline or my trust of the wonder of modern cameras, even on our phones, but I seldom spend too much time using all that I’ve learned in the photography classes I’ve taken. Usually, I have a camera with me and take what I see. And I see pictures all around me. I can’t drive down a street or walk a block without seeing a picture in my mind. I compose all the time, trying to capture the essence of what I’m seeing. That’s impossible sometimes, such as clouds or sunsets, but I can get a little of the wonder of it.

Yesterday, I stepped out my door and was struck by the beauty of the fall leaves in the rain. So, of course, I grabbed my camera and took pictures. For me. Here are a couple so you can see what I’m talking about.DSC_0005DSC_0014I couldn’t let the moment pass. It’s my own memory of that day I walked out my door and saw something so beautiful.

When I travel, I take photos to use in my blog or to remember my trip or to remember where I was. I now take pictures of the restaurants where I eat so I can remember when someone asks me because I would surely forget. I take a lot of photos from the car and it’s amazing what you can get, even through the windshield. It is definitely a problem when I’m the driver because I pull over a lot. A lot. Here’s a photo from Chinatown in San Francisco. I looked up and realized that there were people living lives above the tourists populating their streets. They must be immune to our presence by now.DSC_0508My favorite subjects are the people I love. I’m okay with posed pictures, but I love the candid shots that show me something you can’t see with a pose. My friends are caught in an impromptu dance. She was recently diagnosed with ALS, yet they are marching forward, surrounded by the love of their family and friends. This moment will stay with me for a long time.DSC_1052Here’s a long ago photo of my Daddy, relaxing with his paper on a Sunday morning. Most people knew him as elegant, athletic, handsome and he was. He was also Daddy with his tan line from his golf shoes, his rumpled curly hair, and his daily paper. Scan 32My youngest granddaughter is in love with all animals and not afraid to get up close. This bird was so patient to let her see how his feathers work.DSC_0161Last summer, my family got together for a swim party and I watched my grandsons play like little kids. The oldest one was leaving for college in a month and I caught him enjoying his cousins. How many more times will I get to see them all together playing?DSC_0163The boys made up game after game in the water in total joy with the familiarity of brothers and cousins.DSC_0187The boys are all athletic and I caught one of the younger ones (at 15 and 6’5″) showing his intensity in a ball game. He is a pitcher and first baseman, by the way.DSC_0145I catch my youngest granddaughter all the time in moments that remind me she is still a little one, our last for awhile. Oh, the sweetness of a sleeping child. IMG_7637Here’s another older one that I caught on the Christmas before my oldest grandson was born. All my children are gathered together in that moment before the grandchildren began to arrive. By the end of the following year, we would have three boys…but we didn’t know that at this moment. So much happened after this. So much.photoHere’s a picture I took at the OSU Homecoming Parade a few weeks ago, intending to use it in my blog. Little did I know that a horrible tragedy was about to happen about a mile down the street. Little did I know that this would capture the essence of the parade’s innocence and delight before the horror happened.DSC_0082Years ago, I was volunteering with the local domestic violence shelter. We gave a Halloween party for the women and children and I was taking Polaroid pictures for them. We didn’t use film because we wanted to respect their privacy. That event taught me so much about my camera and myself. One woman held a one year old in a body cast, wanting a photo for the father who had caused this pain. I had to stop myself. I lifted the camera to take a photo of one woman and seeing her eyes through a lens made me put the camera down for a moment. There was too much there, too much of her I was seeing. I lifted it back and took the shot, but I’ve never forgotten the power of what you see through a lens, what focusing on something teaches you in that moment.

So I’ll go on taking my camera with me, stopping to capture my family and friends, everything beautiful, interesting, funny or memorable around me. I sometimes feel artsy, as anyone can with the sophisticated equipment we have today, but mostly I do it because I can’t help myself.

You get the picture.

My oldest grandchild turns 17 today.  Already?  It was just the other day that I was 17, wasn’t it?  About 51 years ago to tell the truth.  It doesn’t seem that long. . . except for everything that has happened since then.

Part of me is still 17 as I remember it.  I was well into my senior year in high school on my 17th birthday.  I still had braces on my teeth.  I had fallen in love with the boy who would be the older boy I married a few years later.  I was trying to figure out college and keep my grades up and was active in school activities and I played a lot.  At 17, we were the leaders of the school, the promise of the future.  Until we got to college and had to start over again.

When I was 17,  I worked a little, mainly tutoring, but most of my friends didn’t have jobs.  We studied and played.  We were the lucky ones.  We never knew what really went on in some of our classmates’  homes until many years later.  It was a time when people kept family secrets, when horrible things weren’t mentioned.  Life wasn’t as innocent as we were led to believe.

Seventeen was the end of my sheltered years, when I left home for the first time for college.  It was the end of the innocence for our country when our President was assassinated and we watched it all on television, over and over, although it wasn’t the 24 hr news cycle we have today.

When I was 17, we still used rotary dial phones and had to call the operator to make a long distance call.  We wrote letters to tell our grandmothers what was going on in our lives because long distance calls were special.  No direct dial long distance yet.  Technology was having a long cord on your phone so you could take it into a closet for privacy.  We walked a lot because not everyone had a car.  We went to the library for information because there were no computers.

Seventeen was a year of introspection for me.  I read a lot, a lot of heavy thoughts.  I was in the throes of being a new intellectual.  Mixed with being a fun-loving teenager.  How does that work – being an intellectual teenager?  Really?  And, I’m sure my parents didn’t understand me at all, because what parents ever do?

Mostly, seventeen was fun.  When I watch the movie “American Graffiti,” I see my senior year.  Move the scene from Los Angeles to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and you have my high school years, accurate to the dress, the music, the dances, the kids.   All the fun and angst and watching the world from a new perspective as you move from adolescence into pre-adulthood.  Some friends were getting there faster, getting married, getting jobs, having babies.  It was a time of change.

I’m lucky to have had a life that I can remember with such affection.  Very lucky.  I can see that now, looking back all those years.

My advice for my grandkids as they turn 17 is simple.  Enjoy, take it all in.  Learn from what you see and take it all with you on this exciting journey of life.

When I was 17. . . it was a very good year.

Breezers picture - Version 2

For Christmas this year, I gave my family a vacation. We, all 16 of us, left town together during the holidays for a long weekend together. We’ve done this once before, a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, a must see for everyone in my opinion. We’re pretty good at travel, all of us, although we’ve had our Griswold vacation stories in our lives.

We all live in the same city, the kids go to school together, we get together whenever as many of us can gather as possible, more difficult than ever with the kids’ sports, jobs, activities. It’s not like we never see each other, like we live in different parts of the country. It was time for something special.

There’s something very different about getting four families and me to agree on a place, find a date that works for everyone, then pack us all up and travel together. It’s an adventure, a chance to ditch all the distractions of home, all the responsibilities of jobs and home and school, and just enjoy each other. It’s building the memories that you hope will cement the family bonds through whatever lies ahead. It’s challenging and rewarding.

I realize my family is blessed. The adults all like and enjoy each other and nobody pushed another’s buttons. The kids are friends as well as cousins. Seven of the grandkids are between 12 and 16 and then there is the four year old. The older ones like being together, so we don’t have a stray teen rolling his or her eyes and wishing to be somewhere else. The little one gets to interact with the older kids, teaching her what it’s like to have a big family watching over you. Without her own father, she gets to enjoy having her uncles and older cousins as the men in her life. There’s a lot of talk, a lot of laughter, a lot of funny stories when we get together.

I’m thinking back on our trip, remembering why I wanted to spend the money and the time to take us all away. It’s pretty simple. The gift was for them, of course. We learned some history, had great fun, ate at memorable places, and relaxed. The bigger gift was for me really. Having that time to watch them all together is a big block of happiness in this life that goes by so quickly. It’s a memory that I hope will stay with them forever, a snapshot of what they mean to each other.

We can take our relationships for granted, but they are all fragile. Life can throw things at you that you never expect, things that make you react in ways you never thought possible. I treasure memories like the days with my family, memories that will hopefully keep us strong. No guarantees in life, but we keep having fun in the meantime.


The days roll by quickly and you don’t realize it’s that time of year again except for the sad feeling that comes out of nowhere. The winter months are my time of grieving, no matter how much I try to ignore it. I lost my husband in March one year and my son in January of another and my heart remembers and my brain starts unreeling memories when I least expect it.

It’s not that I sit around crying because there are so few tears left and I’ve developed a new perspective on life and death through the years. I understand that we don’t all have long lives and I’m grateful for every day, every year. But grief has no rules and we each do it our own way. I don’t criticize anyone, we all just get through it. When my husband died, a friend told me that it never gets better, it just gets more bearable. True dat. (I love that expression!)

So for the past couple of weeks, there’s been that nagging feeling and recognition of what it is and random memories, good and bad, that may happen at any time during the year, but that flood me at this time. I drive by the hospital almost daily and usually don’t think about it, but sometimes my brain fast forwards through a lifetime of memories of births and surgeries and deaths until I can stop it. Sirens will randomly trigger memories of 911 calls to try and save my loved ones. My cell phone ringing early in the morning next to my bed always makes me jump, remembering the call that morning, my son’s mother-in-law telling me he had died in his sleep. I can see my lost ones everywhere in this city where we lived and loved, memories are everywhere.

With all the triggers that could make me sad, there are so many others that make me smile. I still have a slide show of my son’s life that plays on my computer when it turns off so there are images that flash randomly from his life. There are his friends who keep up with me on Facebook and will post a picture or a memory, filling in a blank in his life, letting me see him again through other’s eyes. There are things around the house that he made or he gave me that I may walk by and not notice all the time, but when I do, I remember.

My son’s name was Clayton, or Clay, a family name, a name that pops up surprisingly often. The summer after my son died, I was driving into Clayton, New Mexico. As we got closer to the town, there was sign after sign, rushing by me in a blur, all with the word Clayton on them. It was a nonstop jolt to my senses. When we stopped at the light in town, I turned to my right and saw this window.


There are towns named Clay or Clayton, street names, such as this one in San Francisco’s Chinatown.


I stopped behind a truck recently with Clayton in large letters across the back. I went through a town in Texas with my daughter-in-law, past a company named Clayton, with banners along the road saying Clayton, Clayton, Clayton. I never fail to notice. I like to think he’s saying Hi.

If people asked me if it’s harder to lose a spouse or a child, I would hesitate. I lost both to cancer, so there was nothing too sudden about watching them deteriorate. I grieved greatly for my husband, my heart broke, but that loss taught me so much about life, death, and myself to prepare me for the next great loss, just as the loss of my grandparents and my parents and friends along the way taught me. It didn’t make it easier, it just put it more into perspective.

I’d like to get angry about it, but that would be pretty self serving. After all, I look around me every day and see others who have lost loved ones. If you live long enough, you lose someone you love. It’s the way life works, so gird up, girl. You’re just like everyone else and your loss is no greater than theirs. It just gives you more compassion, more understanding of how great our losses are. And, it gives you more gratitude for what we have.

Losing someone has a ripple effect in the lives of that person. I lost my son, his wife lost her husband, their daughter lost her father, my daughters lost their brother, their children lost their uncle, their husbands lost their brother-in-law, his friends lost a friend, and the world lost another soul, every loss great really in the scheme of things.

Last summer, I went to New Orleans for the first time in years, returning to a city with so many fun memories. My in-laws lived there for many years and our family spent time in the French Quarter as often as possible. The streets were familiar and full of my personal images, my own loving ghosts. I could see my son, when we visited for the 1984 World’s Fair, standing by a pole, dressed in one of his usual uniquely Clayton outfits. I’m sure he wanted to break loose from us and explore, which he was able to do in his teens. He loved this city, the place he honeymooned in later years.

Scan 2

And there was the memory of my son and husband, poking each other and try to make each other laugh, as they posed for one of my favorite pictures, taken in New Orleans years later.


I wish I had words of wisdom, words to comfort others. You take comfort in your memories, in the solace of others, in nature. You never know what words will be the ones that help. At my son’s memorial, one of his college friends commented, “He just burned so brightly.” She didn’t know how that comment has warmed me through these years. And helped me put his life into perspective. Funny how that comment leaped out at me, how I hung onto it. Irene probably doesn’t even remember saying it, although she’s a songwriter, so she may. We grab for whatever comforts us and hang onto it for life support.

I am comforted by my daughters and their families, by my daughter-in-law and my son’s daughter, now four. They breathe life into my life and keep me focused. He lives on through his family, his friends, and especially that little girl, so much like him in all his impishness and so uniquely herself. She’s hard to ignore and makes us all smile. We smile at her and for ourselves, because she helps us understand that we are all part of this earth and we have our time here with no way of knowing how long that will be. We need to cherish every day.

Dang it. I can try to be philosophical about it, but I miss my son, my husband. I miss hearing them, hugging them, laughing with them. Sometimes I do a double take when I see someone who has a slight resemblance or walks a certain way and there’s a dim flicker of hope before I remember. I wish they were here to see the family grow, to share with us. I wish they’d had more time with us. There are things I want to tell them, so I do. Why not? Grief is an everlasting process at best.

For those who are grieving, for those who have lost loved ones and think how lucky I am, you’re right. I’ve had so many happy memories and have so many loved ones near me and I’m very aware that for others, it’s not that easy. They may have lost the only person in their life and I can’t even imagine what that’s like. Some people on this earth live their life without a day of happiness and I have so much.

I’m not sure about that saying that God gives you no more than you can handle. There was a news story several years ago that stuck with me, that helps me put my whole life into perspective. After a horrific earthquake in Turkey, there was an image of a woman sitting by the rubble. She had lost 18 members of her family, her home and her business. I don’t think there was anyone left. I think of her often. How did she ever stand up? How did she ever put one foot in front of the other? Who reached out to her? Surely someone lifted her up. Her world died that day, but she didn’t. Where did she find strength? Or did she? I still think of her and hope that she somehow managed to survive that unbelievable loss, that she found a way to face the unimaginable. I wonder what I would have done, where I would be.

As I remember my own lost loved ones, I also try to remember I’m not the only one out there. None of our losses are greater than those of others. They all hurt. All we can do is always remember, always reach out, always love. Nobody ever said life was easy.

A friend once commented that the only thing we can really give our children is memories. That’s a pretty important statement because it covers a lot of ground. Memories can be of lessons learned, like my mother teaching me manners or how to make a bed, or they can be painful, like hurt feelings or physical injuries or loss of loved ones. He was referring to the good ones, the fun ones, the special ones.

Watching my four year old granddaughter, who has already lost her Daddy and her other grandmother in her short life, I am amazed once again at how much little ones observe and remember. She’s at the age where she says “remember when…” a lot, already placing her memories in her ever so short past. But they are definitely stored there and who knows when she will bring them back into a conversation or how they will ultimately affect her life.

For Christmas, I gave my family a trip, a long weekend together, to Austin and San Antonio. The weekend after Christmas was the first time we could find that their schedules weren’t bogged down with sports or school or work, almost an impossibility to bring four families, 16 people together. But we did it. We spent four days traveling in four cars to two cities with eight adults and eight kids ranging from 12-16 with one four year old.

The gift for me was watching them all together, enjoying each other. We all live in the same city but it’s hard to find time to just relax and enjoy each other. The bigger kids go to school together and are close friends, so there was no teenage drama, no teen rolling his or her eyes at the parents. The little one was silly and the older ones were amused and helped with her antics. The parents all parented all the kids. I just got to sit and watch. And love them all.

Looking back at my own life, I have every kind of memory, good, bad, sad, funny. In all our lives, there are things that can’t be avoided, things that hurt, events and people we would like to forget. At best, we can learn and grow from them and put them in perspective. But, it’s important to have good memories, sweet memories, funny memories, to help balance it all out. My obsession with photos helps me with that. Not every memory has to be as elaborate as the trip we took, but it was great. We have many memories that cost us nothing and happened right at home. And, when we gather, whether it’s all of us or with some absent, all those memories are part of the conversation.

The gift for me is that my family has grown into a loud, laughing, loving bunch where there are no awkward silences, no sulking members, no hateful scenes and lots of the very best kind of memories. My resolution for 2014 is to make more of the good kind for everyone I know, family or friend. Happy New Year!


When you lose people you love, and we all do, most of us look for the pieces of them we have left. Photos, letters, recordings, the little things they loved. I have a few things of my husband’s and my son’s tucked away in a drawer by my bed. There are little things from my mother, father, grandparents around the house. Most of the time, the things are just there, but a lot of times seeing them warms my heart. They keep those loved ones close to me. That’s not to say I don’t have some of the same kinds of things around from family and friends who are still with me. I like to surround myself with pieces of my life.

One of the nicest things that happens is when you find a piece of the past unexpectedly. Once I found a piece of paper that was the last grocery list my husband wrote. I keep it tucked in my billfold. I guess it will wear out eventually, but it’s nice to know it’s there. I’ve got a trunk in my bedroom full of little treasures from my kids. The trunk belonged to my great-grandmother and was painted and decorated by my mother-in-law for a wedding present. I look in there every once in awhile and it’s like a bombardment of memories.

I tell people that one of the best things you can do for someone who loses a loved one is to share an old photo or memory of them. It’s like filling in a piece of the person they were. I found a box of slides in the bottom of a box last week. They were dated 1979. I must have taken them but don’t remember taking any slides. Maybe I put the wrong film in my camera or was just trying something new. I’m not sure I’d ever seen these pictures before. I realized they were from my son’s 4th birthday and took them to have prints made. We never knew what we were going to end up with in those days so some photos aren’t very good, some are almost too dark to see. There are a couple of my mother holding her youngest grandson, a month old at the time. I lightened them on the computer and they brought back her tenderness as she held that baby close to her. There’s another one, also very dark, of my sister holding her youngest, that same month old baby. So long ago, yet so close in my heart.

There are photos of my son that turn up from his friends now and then. They are good about posting them on his Facebook page, which we keep open. It’s good to see him alive and laughing. It fills in pieces of how he was when I wasn’t around. I keep a lot of things written about him and by him in a box for his daughter to have later when she wants to get to know him.

This holiday season, we all might think about finding some of the pieces for other people, reminders of loved ones. Yesterday, I got this picture of my son, seeing it for the first time, from a long ago slide. His daughter, the greatest gift he left us, just turned 4 and here he is at the same age. It makes me laugh and cry at the same time to see my little snotty nosed, goofy kid with his Wookie cake on his 4th birthday. It’s a piece of him recovered for my heart.

Scan 198

While being snowed in for a couple of days, I’ve been decorating the house. This is no small deal as I have a vast collection of Santas and other Christmas objects. It takes me about three days to get it all out and that’s if I don’t get distracted. Part of the time is spent cleaning and clearing away everyday items to make room. It takes three steps: get everything out, make a huge mess, bring it all together.

This year, the emotions of it struck me harder than usual. Each piece I bring out has a story or brings a memory with it. There are ornaments and Santas from vacations that bring a flash of fun. There are Santas given to me by dear friends, long gone. There are ornaments from projects I worked on through the years. There’s the Santa my son gave me when he was 13, a hand made one he bought from an artist. There’s the Waterford Santa my husband bought me the year our first three grandsons were born, a Santa with a child on his lap. Little did we know that would be our last Christmas together. There are Santas and reindeer and bells brought to me by my precious little daughters. There’s a lovely snowman snow globe my daughter-in-law to be brought me when she and my son first started dating. There are some from my childhood and Santas and trees from my mother, purchased at Neiman Marcus so very many years ago.

As each of my children moved out of the house into their own, I gave them their box of ornaments. That left me with fewer, so I started using a little half tree that goes on the wall. It’s kind of my Charlie Brown Christmas tree, but it works. I have the same Santa on top I’ve had since the first year we had a tree, back in 1967. We actually married on December 23, 1966, but were on our honeymoon that year. I’ve added ornaments I found a few years ago that are picture frames with images of my family and some dear friends, even my pets. I decided these are the treasures of my life.

It’s tempting not to decorate. I don’t have the big parties I used to and it’s mostly for me, but it’s still special and fun. I usually hum while I’m working, all the beautiful and fun holiday music of our lives.

The emotions run through every day during the holidays as we celebrate with friends and family. We’re hurried to get what we want for our gift list and we’re bombarded with requests for donations from so many deserving charities. The joy is tempered by the guilt as we see one more image of a family who will have nothing when we have so much. We give canned goods and adopt families and drop coins in the Salvation Army buckets, knowing we can never do enough because the needs are so great. Some of us have someone close to us who is as needy as the people on the lists, but would never let us know. The joy of the season is tempered by the sorrow of those in pain and need.

The holidays are for sharing, sharing with all the joy in your heart. We pay it back and pay it forward and we reach out of ourselves. It’s a wonderful thing, this season of hope that brings out the best in all of us. A very wonderful time of year.


Bit by bit, I’m cleaning out my garage. It had gotten out of control as I stored things for relatives and friends and kept things I might sell in a garage sale or might use later. I’m still sorting.

There was a moment when I thought I might be on the brink of being a hoarder, but then I recruited some of my grandsons to help me dig out and discovered some hidden bonuses. First, I found a box of old directories and date books, which I have kept since 1975. I have actually used them to find dates for things nobody else can find. There were a few directories from groups I volunteered with that contained a list of past presidents that helped us put together a history of an organization. There were other directories that helped me remember names of people I worked with. The date books have helped me date old photos and events through the years, not to mention giving a timeline of my life when I need it. I confess to being a keeper, a keeper of old photos, letters, memories. There is a difference in being a keeper or being a hoarder. I hope.

There was a lot of junk in the garage, still is. The biggest decision was not to do a garage sale which would take an inordinate amount of time and energy, but to start throwing away and giving away. Local charities are glad to get stuff like I had in there. Some of it was leftover merchandise from when I owned a gift shop and I’m thrilled they can profit a little from it.

The best part was watching my grandsons discover things and ask questions. There was a conversation about things that belonged to their grandfather who died before some of them were born or things that belonged to their uncle. They wanted to take things home with them, which I let them do. They found out things about their relative and about me that they didn’t know. I gave one who loves making movies a camera that was my father’s. Later I found a photo of my father using one of his cameras, emailing it to him to make a lasting connection.

When my mother died, my sister and I spent weeks going through her things. She had already cleaned out a lot of cabinets and drawers and closets and given us some precious items, but there is always the chore of touching every single thing in a house, every little bobby pin (remember those?), scrap of paper, piece of clothing in drawers, closets, a house. A lot of stuff. It turned out to be fun, full of memories and stories and laughter, a last way to connect and learn about her life. I’ve heard other people say this, too, and it’s true that the things people want in the end are the old cookie jar or some object that strikes a memory rather than the most expensive things.

So, I continue to sort and clean out and am close to being able to get my car in there again. There is still much that needs to go, and it gradually will, I promise. I want to leave things that my kids can laugh about, wonder why I kept it and figure it out, discover something new about me, or remember something fun from our lives. My goal is to be more historian than hoarder. I’m digging through, excavating so to speak, a job that will never end.

I hope when I’m gone, my kids say, “What a mess.” And then, “What a life!”


My youngest grandchild turned four today and several times her conversation started with “Remember when…” We laughed because it sounds so funny for a little one to be looking back at experiences she remembers in her short life, short compared to ours. I was thinking about it and realized what a big step it is. Up until now her life was all about what lay in front of her. Now, she has a little bit of past and she’s remembering and comparing it to now. Wonder how long she’s been doing this and just didn’t have the verbal skills to tell us about it?

I’m constantly astounded by how much a child learns in the first few years as those little sponge brains soak up everything around them. Today’s children must come out of the womb knowing how to use all the technologically advanced gear we carry around. This one has almost never lived without an iPad and there have always been cell phones in her little life. She’s my first grandchild whose life is over photographed (I plead guilty without shame) due to digital photography and the ability to edit and send photos immediately. She’ll never even think about those things because it’s all she’s ever known. I wonder what incredible things lie in her future?

We were driving through downtown today and she was remembering other times we had been there and what we had done, which streets we had been on, who we were with. She’s been doing that for quite awhile actually. Her little history is pretty exciting to her, which means we’ve all done a good job providing great experiences for her.

This is a big day. From now on, she’ll be forever saying, “Remember when…” and adding more chapters to her story. Looking back at my own story, doing my own personal “remember whens,” I can only hope for her and for all my grandchildren that they have a wonderful life full of love, family, friends and great memories. Of course, we know there will be the not so good times, and this little one has already had more than her share of those as she lost her Daddy and Grandma, but I hope that there are so many good “remember whens” to get her through the sad times, the hard times, the challenging times.

When you get to be my age, you have lots of memories to deal with, to sort through, to put in perspective. Your brain is so cluttered with a lifetime stuffed into that internal file room that you sometimes have to do a search to find what it is you want to remember. Today, I enjoyed listening to a little one with a brain that is filling oh so quickly ask me to “Remember when…” Today was a special day to add to her memories and I’m so glad I was there.