We just weren’t ready to do it right after the funeral. We knew we’d have to divide up Mom’s worldly goods among us four children, but emotions were high and the loss was too recent to do it then. There were plenty of other arrangements to make, practical matters to attend to, and a house to sell. We put it off until later.
Nobody really wanted to face the task. There was too much at risk, and family relationships at stake if it did not go well. But with two siblings coming from far reaches of the country at the same time this summer, we all knew it was inevitable.
I mentally set aside three days for the task. Being the family organizer, I set the meeting time for the first day at 9:00am with dire warnings not to be late. “Do we really need to start so early?” my sister asked. “How long do you think this will take?” How I wanted to share in her optimism! I generously allowed everyone an extra half hour in the morning, but we didn’t have any spare days.
We had family heirlooms handed down through multiple generations, and favorite items that meant a lot to each of us. All of it was treasured, used and cared for lovingly by our parents. And memories were wrapped around everything. How ever could we respectfully divide these things among us? But time is a great healer. The tempers that flared in the aftermath of losing Mom had mellowed and been replaced by a generous spirit. “I want” became “who would like this?” and “I think you should have it.” Even the few items with the strongest contention were ultimately resolved gracefully.
While it was a herculean job, and the hours of identifying, hunting, sorting and deciding were tiring, we also managed to have fun. We were easily sidetracked, lured off task by the items we discovered that led to stories, questions and often a lot of laughs. There were things whose purpose totally escaped us. We learned some new terms – nappie, compote, candlewick, fretted. We delved into old books, and sifted through memorable record albums (yes, the old vinyl variety). We played with the wind-up toys we’d given Mom over the years.
We did manage to get through all the main stuff. And best of all, nearly everything of importance found a new home. Just knowing that the family treasures were staying in the family made me happy. My oldest sister walked away with her “take” in one shopping bag. My brother will have to come back with a U-Haul. A big one. My kids will have some furniture to flesh out a new apartment, china and silver to remind them of Grandma’s love for entertaining.
Everyone is happy with their selections and we’re all still talking to each other. Mom would be proud of us.