It starts so innocently. I pick up a tiny hooded towel and remember my wee elf with dripping hair and grinning eyes. Smiling, I fold it up. Put it back.
The silk shirt makes me laugh. Every pearly button gone, snipped because they were so perfect for the christening gowns I made my niece's twin babies. My favorite shirt in the whole world. Must replace those buttons.
My own christening blanket, handed to me solemnly when I moved out of Mama’s house so long ago. For your babies, she’d said, kissing my cheeks.
She made it herself, spun with fine thread and I remembered sobbing into it when I came home without the two that didn’t make it. Softly singing to the only one that did, swaddled in the blanket my Mama made for me.
The pillowcases embroidered by Mama’s hands. So you’ll have something to remember me by when I’m gone, she said. She’s 89 now, and every time I find messages from her on voice mail, I save the recordings so there will never be a day I can’t hear her tell me she loves me.
I pick up the sealed package with Dad’s favorite shirt. Put it back unopened. Too much, too much — and I know there are fistfuls of such memories tucked into corners and crannies all over the house.
This. This is why I hate spring cleaning.
I need a damn trunk, I think to myself. A memory chest for all these things I can’t yet let go of and maybe never will.
That fast, my mind whirls backward and I can see the big old steamer trunk at the foot of Mama’s bed, and my curly mopped little self on a cold, rainy day so long ago. Mama, can we look in your trunk, please Mama? I so like to look at the things you saved.
I think, at long last, I finally understand the look that flitted across Mama’s face for the briefest of moments before she reached for my hand and said okay, let’s go look.
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