Cleaning Out Mother’s File Boxes: A Labor of Love

Published September 19, 2016

You all know it! You’ve all been there—cleaning out your parents’ files! In this case, prior to my 96-year-old Mother’s move to a retirement community, we had cleaned out truckloads of files. While Brother Kyle was searching for boxes of stuff Mother told him to find, Brother Thurston, Brother Dale and I found box after box of every card anyone had ever sent Mother. I do mean literally every card! Yes, they had been stored in the basement when Mother moved back to Virginia. Mother was heartbroken to give these up because, through the years, she would reread many of those cards and smile and laugh and cry.

Some boxes we moved with Mother until such time that she had a chance to go through them again—perhaps, have time for reminiscing. Well, this past week was the time to unload closets too crowded to hold four seasons worth of clothes. (Have you noticed that these retirement homes have small closets?) Anyway, after three days of bending over and shuffling boxes from one spot to another, Mother and I managed to fill up my SUV with boxes full of papers to be shredded. But, there were unexpected treasures found that Mother had forgotten about, and I never knew about. We found the flag that covered Daddy’s casket when he died at the age of 29 after coming home from Guam in 1945, sick and spending his last days in the Roanoke Veterans Hospital. We found left-over World War II rationing books which proclaimed that every American sacrificed and fought this war. (I wonder, if this should be done today, whether or not Americans would be so eager to go to war.) There was a lock of Mother’s hair passed down from Mommy Laurie, my grandmother. The most treasured item of all to me was the “memory book” from Daddy’s funeral.

Through the years, Mother spoke very little of my father. She says it was too painful and she couldn’t risk falling apart. She had four children to raise. Mother said she had to keep her mind on the tomorrow and not look back. So, it was my Aunt Joyce Rose Baldacci who called my dad a “prince of a man,” my grandparents, Monroe and Laura Stanley, and Aunt Royal Ines Salyers who talked to me about my dad and from whom I learned that he had a heart of gold and a good business mind.

I brought this memory book home to read in private. I read and reread the names of those who attended the funeral and of those who visited the home. The cards—the sympathy cards were of a different era, stylized to fit the tastes of folks of that time. Yes, Mother saved those, too, and they are in perfect condition. These are cards I’d never complain about having to go through. Like me, I know that my brothers will cherish this book and cards that Mother took the effort to save through many moves.