A famous question asks, “If you had to escape from your burning house what would you save?” I’ve always had trouble with that because there are so many things in my home that are meaningful to me. So I was intrigued when a woman named Romaine Horowitz (dubbed an easy “Ro” by friends) wrote about about how her parents struggled let go of the accumulation of years. Since this is a challenge many of us ultimately face, I share her moving recollection.
My parents sold the house they had lived in for 40 years. This meant an archeological dig, unearthing shards and fragments of family life, Their house was very spacious and after we three children grew up and moved away, my parents felt like a pair of dice rattling around in a cup. In order to move into a smaller house they had to winnow, discard and choose what to take.
Years later my mother died. My father moved to a tiny apartment which meant – again – reducing and letting go.
That summer I took my children to visit him in Chicago. My father told his grandchildren,”I want to show you something.” Then painfully, arthritically, he reached up to a closet shelf and took down a cardboard box.
With great care, he removed the contents.There were faded newspaper clippings from a time in his twenties when’d been a prizefighter! Photographs of my mother. Dog-eared menus from restaurants he had briefly owned. His high school album. It seemed as if he were telling his grandchildren, “This is who I am.”
Recently I had to sell my own house, that I had lived in for 39 years. My children, too, have grown and my husband has died.I realize that a house is only a receptacle, a container. It feels very empty, very lonely, Even so, I have started the elimination, the relinquishing. The picture I see firmly and indelibly in my mind is how full of life my father’s cardboard box had been.
Ro passed away a few years ago. I think she would be pleased to know that her brief memoir is in my own equivalent of a cardboard box. It reminds me that we all need to learn which items best express who we are – and let the rest go.
[For more about Ro, see my interview with her in TurningToward Tomorrow (available through xLibris.com).
Additional books: Widow’s Walk- iUniverse.com; Role Play and Ten Women of Valor -CreateSpace.com and Amazon Kindle.