by Patty Lawrence
The box is marked “Keep Vicky.” Vicky is gone. The box contents are gone. The box with her black Sharpie lettering “Keep Vicky” remains. We wanted to keep Vicky. We couldn’t.
I don’t remember the contents of that particular box. Childhood treasures: trophies, china figurines, an old picture in a chipped frame, a photo album from her trip to Europe? Most find their way into the big black trash bag. The album was saved. No one wants those photos, yet no one dares toss them.
The entire business is exhausting. Vicky’s parents lived forty-seven years in the house but now they are downsizing into a significantly smaller apartment and everything but the essentials and the favorites must go. But every object has a story, a history. The memories live plain sight, are stored in boxes, and tucked into crevasses.
It’s hard to know what to do with other people’s treasures. We already sorted though her things once after she died. This round includes things her parents saved or the things she tucked away before moving out into adulthood.
We, the sibs and spouses, have made a pact: if it is too hard for her parents to part with, one of us will take it. We say with conviction, “Yes. I want that.” We may or may not, but if we don’t we won’t tell. We are ruthless. Mostly.
The adult milestone markers we claim as if we need proof of her existence. Validation that she was here. Molly took her law school diplomas. I suppose they will go in a box and into the depths of her basement, but I don’t ask.
I end up with her flat, nearly new, white ballet slippers she wore on her wedding day. They are carefully saved in their cardboard box for what 15 years? The marriage expired after two. The shoes look pristine and would fit my daughter. I hate them. So they are off to Goodwill where I hope their new owner has better luck.
The wedding album Molly rescues. I think Vicky liked the wedding, if not her Ex. Maybe that’s why the album survived. The marriage was a disaster and the photos should have gone into the big black trash bag years ago. I wonder if it will keep the diplomas company.
We wonder why we didn’t sort the 1990’s chunky earrings then. Too personal, perhaps.
Gone now is the bridesmaid’s photo of her with hair just before chemo claimed it. It sat on a dresser for ten years. No one wants that photo, not even her parents. It’s the bride’s photo and not even Vicky’s treasure. I wonder why they kept it displayed and dusted all these years. Funny what we are afraid to let go of. The photo gets slipped in the big black trash bag along with some old soaps.
Childhood treasures get tossed—except the small Blue Bird outfit with the merit patches sewn in. Hard won trophies from teenage years go quietly into the big black trash bag along with the elementary school art work. They will keep a big box of shells company in the dark of the dump.
We, the sibs, we reduce this sorting to quick surgical work. It’s the pact. Forty-seven years of sorting is painful and overwhelming but we don’t dwell. If one of us needs a breather, another quietly steps up. We absorb what we can, with a “I love it!” or “I know just the place at home….” We work methodically though the boxes, shelves, and cupboards. What closet is next?
Keep Vicky. If only we could.
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