It was Sunday, September 25, 2022. BF and I were upstairs taking the air conditioners out of the bedroom windows–part of our annual Fall clean-up. I manned the sweeper, ready to dust the sills. While I was waiting on him to manhandle the machine and clean out the bird’s nest he found carefully crafted under the unit, I swept areas that don’t often see the business end of a vacuum.
I came across my mom’s silver. One of my most prized belongings, and yet, I had forgotten where it was stored. I opened the velvet lined, wooden box and picked up a spoon. So beautiful. So delicate. So many memories of polishing, and the gorgeous table it set for Maggie’s constant hosting.
Not especially rare or valuable, I could buy a four-piece place setting of Damask Rose today on Ebay for $119.95. But I remember Christmas after Christmas, my mom enthusiastically thanking her mother-in-law, my Granny, for the place setting or single serving spoon she received as her gift.
It was Monday, September 26. Before I went to bed, I took one final flip through my phone. I opened an email from The Sunlight Press, a Literary Journal to which I subscribe. I was immediately drawn to a beautifully written essay: If You Have to Sell Silver, by Leslie Doyle.
As I read the essay, I was fascinated by the author’s creativity and craft, the stark juxtaposition of the potential selling of her mother’s silver and the monetary value vs. the “value.” I found myself pulling for the silver. Keep it, I thought. Do not sell your mom’s silver. We’re all going to use that silver again someday! With the final lines of the essay, the hospital scene, which was all too relatable, I got teary.
It was Tuesday, September 27th, 2022. On a walk, I mentioned to BF about finding my mom’s silver and reading this touching essay the next day.
Later that afternoon, I was putzing around and in my search for a podcast to carry me through my tasks, I happened upon Anderson Cooper’s new podcast: All There Is, which I chose with little awareness of the topic, but more because I just really like Anderson Cooper. I listened to the first episode which he recorded while going through his beloved, diseased mother’s things in her Manhattan apartment.
As I’m sure you know, Anderson Cooper’s mother was Gloria Vanderbilt and he allows followers to listen in as he sorts through designer gowns and love letters from Frank Sinatra. Fascinating.
Now, Maggie Arnold and Gloria Vanderbilt could not have lived more different lives, but because Anderson Cooper shared these intimate moments through his podcast, I was able to see many similarities. His description of the final weeks he spent with his mother brought to mind the last month of my mom’s life that I spent with her at The Cleveland Clinic before riding six hours in the back of an ambulance with her to Indiana where she died a few days later.
My mother was a minister’s wife who wore welcomed hand-me-down dresses. The love letters I found in her things were the back and forth from Indiana to Virginia between two young students on Summer break who couldn’t wait until the Fall of 1951 when they’d return to Johnson Bible College in Tennessee, and each other.
Cooper, whose mother apparently saved everything, was taken aback by the seemingly inconsequential notes from him that his mother had saved. My mother was not a big saver of things, and yet, in her small crate of treasures, I found a yellowed clipping from the Indianapolis Star circa 1983 about the opening of the Skyline Club in Indianapolis that included a photo of me sitting at the receptionist’s desk.
Noticing, Deciding, Writing
Each blog I write here begins with me noticing what is going on around me and deciding what I might want to share with you. What might be valuable enough to ask you to use your valuable time to read.
This week, I find myself thinking about mothers and the stuff they leave behind. And how we decide what to save or toss. Like my mother before me, I’m not a big saver of things, but this silver and china and linens . . . I can’t let it go. But what will I do with it when it’s time for me to downsize?
And, eventually, what will they do with it all?
And the letters. I’m beyond grateful for the letters. I don’t think I have any of my own letters for my kids to find. But I have journals. Scads of journals. So many they’ll never have time to read them.
I sometimes wonder, what do I own that will be valued?