My mom died last year. How’s that for a first sentence on your first blog post? Yeah, it sucked, thanks for asking. Would you believe, though, that good things have come from it? This blog, for example. Because in absence of physical letters and pictures, we need to leave our stories behind.
As we clean my mom’s house of 46 years of stuff, we are learning so much. It is painful and hilarious. It is labor-intensive and uplifting. It is heart-wrenching and inspirational. My mom was diagnosed with stage four cancer, so we had some warning. And morbid though it seemed, we started cleaning her house before she died. And it was awesome. My mom would be lying in bed, napping or watching tv, in one room, and across the hall my sister and I were going through drawers. My sister put on her prom dress (she’s 37 and it still fit: goals). She walked across the hall so Mom could enjoy it, too. We found a pack of letters addressed to Mom at an address in Mississippi. “Mom lived in Mississippi?!” We walked across the hall to hear the whole story (she lived there for only a few weeks while attending Holiday Inn University; Mom was a Food and Beverage Director back in the day). The contents of the letters revealed so much more. The letters were from our dad (who was only her boyfriend at the time, and was as hilarious as I remember; he died 20 years ago; I’m going to need a few more posts for all these stories, you see?) both of her sisters (one was living in Alaska, the other still lived at home with their parents), and of course, from her own mother. And while I curse her in heaven at least once a week for all the crap we have to go through, I am so happy she had saved those letters.
And there is so much more. So. Much. More. And you have to go through all the worthless stuff to find the treasures. Truth be told, I think I’ve found a lot of things she would’ve rather I never saw. (Lots of stories, remember?) But I learned so much. And everything is enlightening. Scratch that. Some things are infuriating. “What IS this? Why did she keep it? Who was David and why did he give a book of Elizabeth Barrett Browning poems to my mom?” Because we didn’t get through everything before she died. Very little, in fact, as her 6-12 months turned out only to be three. So there are mysteries. And lots of unanswered questions.
While the meticulously-crafted public blog post is NOT the same as letters between lovers, never meant to be seen by their future children, at least it is something. Because I have exactly ONE letter from my husband. The one I forced him to write on our wedding day (because we didn’t write our own vows, but I wanted personal sentiment; compromise from day one, the secret to our successful marriage). Technology has changed us. “The Undiscovered Letters of Emily Heinis,” will never be a thing. And the KonMari way in which we purge our inboxes lately means we likely won’t even have old emails to peruse. (Unless, of course, you are my mother. I found all the emails I wrote my mom while I was studying abroad PRINTED OUT in her desk drawer. One of them explains that she printed them to share with our co-workers, as I worked for her at the time. That was 2001. Now, they’re in my desk drawer instead. Marie Kondo would not be proud.)
The things my mother failed to throw away became my treasures. Because stories are very important to me. And my mom just didn’t talk about herself very often. Hardly ever, in fact. And if I can put my stories out there for my own kids, well, then I think that’s a worthy use of my time. And if I share a bunch of wild crap I’d rather they not read, that’s fine, too. Because I really don’t want them to wonder.
If you’ve read this far, I thank you. Welcome to my stories.