Mom was meticulous about most things. Everything from our spic & span house, her sharp matching outfits, her snow white work uniforms, which were always ironed with perfect creases, to the high polished sheen of our oak dining room floor. Washed the windows, inside and out-constantly. Dusted the floors on hands and knees daily after shaking out all the rugs.
|Mom’s beautiful dining room. You could eat off her floor, it was that clean…|
She kept an old ace bandage box, separated by tiny dividers with an envelope in every section. When she and Dad got paid and cashed their checks, much of the money went into one of the sections of that old-falling-apart-box. IPS, De Boer’s station for Mom’s gas, fuel oil, Ver Berg’s station for Dad’s car gas (don’t ask), tithing for First Reformed, grocery money, phone bill. She wrote some checks but the majority of their bills were paid in cash. And always early.
|Mom and me in 1957…|
Still, I was dumbfounded when I started cleaning out their house after she passed away in 2004. She was a bit of a hoarder, but obsessively neat. A terrific saver, stashing money in the strangest places. She once hid a couple hundred dollars in the clothes dryer, promptly forgetting about it. A few days later while doing laundry suddenly remembered the money. Raced to the dryer to find only damp clothes, then screamed at Dad to run outside. Sure enough, 20 dollar bills were flying all over our back yard. She often hid money in pockets of clothes, coats and in books, so we carefully screened everything before deciding what to do with something after we lost her. And yes, we found several hundred dollars.
|A Christmas gift of my outlined hand, a potholder perhaps…|
Mom was an avid reader, always eager to learn more and studied our set of World Book Encyclopedias religiously from cover to cover. Yes, every volume. Think: the first google, everything you needed to know-after your fingers did the walking. Soaking that knowledge up, when she usually had to force me to look something up for a school report.
I did find many things that surprised me, but couldn’t find a couple things that surprised me even more. Mom loved to write. She wrote entire conversations she had with my kids when they were small. I can still picture some of them. When I’d go to Rock Valley to pick up whatever kid had been there for a couple days (she always wanted the grandkids to visit separately, so they could be the big cheese and have their grandparent’s undivided attention). She’d have a couple new hand written notebook sheets, (in her beautiful, cursive penmanship) titled, Conversations with Shannon (later Joshua or Adam).
|Mother’s Day card made in school…|
Starting when they were about 18 months and were rapidly expanding their vocabulary. My kids were very bright. Honest. I should have been doing the same, but never did. You know those hilarious things your little rugrats come up with. Then Hubs would come home from work, and I was busy making supper, doing dishes and laundry, packing lunches, baths, stories and bedtime. That once in a lifetime priceless conversation just disappears from your head. We should all be allowed a few do-overs for that kind of stuff.
|Outside of the card…|
I couldn’t find any of Mom’s and the kids conversations they had together. Still disappointed and wonder what happened to them, because SHE KEPT EVERYTHING. But I did find lots of things I shake my head about and wonder, why on earth would you save that all these years Mom?
|The day my long hair became everlasting pigtails…|
Let me give you a few examples. She kept an article from the Rock Valley Bee. There is no date but it has to be 1957 because I’m in first grade. She might have been tickled to see my name in the newspaper. Part of the charm of small town living I guess. As I grew up, she probably prayed every night that my name wouldn’t make the paper again.
|Snippets of a young girl’s life in 1957…|
Little hand written poems from elementary school which earned me a few ribbons. A sheet of black construction paper that I must have plopped a few drops of paint on helter-skelter, then folded in half and pressed together. Ta-da, a butterfly appeared which also got an award. Yeah, I worked hard for that design. Silly little art projects. Most of which she had Dad make frames and hung them all over the house.
|Corny, but Char’s still very special…|
Mother’s Day day cards with mimeographed poems for every kid in the class to take home. (I still draw my houses the exact same way). And often still spell my own name wrong. Dennse. Yes, many people think so. Ironic? Doubtful. Prophetic is more like it. A green piece of felt with the outline of a very small ‘Neese’ hand, trimmed with red ribbon for Christmas present to Mom.
|There are no words, just check out my name…|
Report cards and awards for perfect attendance seem like reasonable mementos to save from my youth. While Mom kept many souvenirs from vacations, the postcards from the Beumer’s vacation and my duplicate activity ticket seem rather odd. But there they were for me to find, which gave me pause several times during the couple weeks while going through every nook & cranny of their old house. Maybe that was her intention. She’s been gone almost 14 years and here I am. Writing about the odd items saved for decades after her innocent little girl had long since moved on.
|The gang who lived across the street. The picture side is 2 poodles and it’s got a squeaker inside…|
But I really appreciate her thoroughness in saving so many different things of mine (many are actually worthless, but conjure all kinds of emotions when I spot them sitting around my house now). I wish I could say the same thing about saving things for my kids when they were little. I had some good intentions.
|A budding artist-not….|
I had nice baby books for all three kids, and I wrote a goodly amount in each one. All the usual stuff, rolling over, scooting, cooing, first words, snippets of their first haircut, how incredibly bright and beautiful each one was. One year I bought 3 huge Tupperware containers. Started putting awards, little shoes, special outfits, sports memorabilia in the tub for each one of them.
|See, I did love school…|
Pales in comparison though to Mom’s willingness to-go-over-the-top. She had my hair cut pretty short before I started kindergarten. She saved both pigtails. Took one of my rather adorable baby pictures and plopped the pigtails inside the frame 60 years ago. Dad made the frame, which was falling apart, and Mom used rubber bands on the ends of each pigtail. Which literally disintegrated after half a century. So the klutzy one took it upon myself to ‘fix’ my pigtail picture. Got a new frame and decided ribbon tied into tiny bows would last longer. In the process, I lost about a third of my pigtail hair though. It seems after all these years and and stark realization of uselessness of most items, I too am hesitant to toss any of it. I will leave those decisions to my kids after I’m gone. I can picture them going through tubs in the basement, shaking their heads and wondering why on earth would mom ever keep this stuff all these years…
|Mom’s idea, but I now think it’s pretty neat…|