Mom and dad had a mishmash of furniture in their bedroom, not really a nice matching suite, so dad painted the headboards, nightstand and dresser white. The piece that remained unpainted was a high dresser from the 40’s and sat by the closet door, right next to a window. The dresser had large drawers and most of them were designated to the memory of my brother. In October of 1958, 12 year old Larry was hit by a car riding bike to our grandparent’s house. I was 7-1/2 and Mona was 15 at the time. Didn’t realize what a huge, lifelong toll this loss would be for the rest of us.
The snoopy kid (me) used to look through those ‘Larry’ drawers every so often after he died. There were several scrap books filled with sympathy cards and newspaper articles about his accident, plus the Sunday church bulletin from Calvin Christian Reformed church (printed a few hours after his death the day before) and the bulletin from his funeral. Many of these cards had heartfelt handwritten notes, poems, Bible verses and tracks about coping with a loss, faith and trusting God. There were tons of them. Mom occasionally paged through those scrapbooks, crying while reading the cards and letters, but for me they were kinda depressing to reread.
I loved looking at Larry’s things that mom decided to keep. The things she and dad chose were different than what reminded me of Larry, but then I was only 7. All of his marbles sat in a large tin can in the deepest drawer. Larry and his friends spent hours on our pea gravel driveway shooting marbles. His large baseball card collection took up a lot of space, stack upon stack held together with rubber bands. After a few years neither the cards or marbles were in the drawers anymore. I assumed mom and dad gave them to his friends or maybe Mona’s boys. I never asked about them.
After mom passed away in 2004, dad decided to move to Michigan so we went through everything before putting the house on the market. Mom saved/stored a lot since the move to our 15th Street house in 1955 (not just Larry’s stuff). A big job and not something we wanted to rush. There were reasons for the bit of hoarding mom did, she was very sentimental. (I found a dress from my home economics class, which was a joke. I couldn’t sew, my teacher, Miss Weiner ended up sewing 90% of the summer shift. Mom saved it nonetheless).
What dad didn’t want to move we divided up or donated. I fretted about Larry’s stuff thinking this would be a bone of contention, but Mona wanted none of Larry’s things so it all came home with me. Not that there was a lot from a 12 year old boy, but nothing that belonged to Larry got tossed. His baseball glove (he was a southpaw so wore a right handed glove) and pop gun remained in the drawer from 1958 until I brought them to my house.
The few pieces of clothes I have that were his are a puzzle too. His swimming trunks are size 14 so I assume they were from his last summer on earth in 1958. But they’re minuscule. I know basketball and swimming trunks were much shorter than shorts today, but they’re very small. Several years ago I brought Larry’s swimming trunks along when we were taking care of our grandson. Graham was about 6 at the time and the trunks fit him perfect. Were kids that much smaller during the 1950’s?
Larry’s leftover, nearly new jeans don’t have a size on them that I can find, (they don’t have that tiny red Levi tag on them either), but the jeans look very small to me. No patches on the knees, no grass stains or faded from our wringer washer/clothesline. I can’t remember how tall Larry was when he died but the inseam of his jeans are long. Not really surprising, mom and dad were both about 6 feet. Or maybe that was when everyone wore their jeans with big cuffs. His faded brown and white shirt is a size 12 and looks like it was a favorite he wore often. I looked through my Larry pictures but haven’t found one of him wearing this particular shirt though.
On that fateful Saturday morning, I noticed him riding ‘my’ bike down the driveway and ran outside to confront him. By the time I got outside, he was going past the old Methodist Church at the end of our block. He yelled back he was borrowing my bike because he needed the basket and would give me a dime when he got home, but I don’t remember what he was wearing.
I never questioned mom about what or why she chose certain things to save from Larry’s life and now it’s too late to ask her, but I’ve always been curious (and possessive) about his things. Anyone who remembers Larry’s childhood usually mentions his Schwinn bike, his love for sports, baseball jacket and cap. Since his jacket and baseball cap were his absolute favorites and were not part his keepsakes, leads me to assume he was wearing both of them on that beautiful (horrific) Saturday morning in October…