Cleaning out my grandma’s condo was a lot of hard work. Throwing away the trash, sorting through what should be kept and what could be sold and trying to organize closets and drawers took four people six days. We didn’t even move all her things out. My mother has planned another trip up to MI in October to have a garage sale and empty the place so it can be sold.
As exhausting as the ordeal was, I will always be grateful that I was able to be there. It was like an archaeology dig, uncovering history that we had all but forgotten. Every so often my mom or sister or I would call out, “Hey! Do you remember this?” and we would all huddle around the discovered trinket as one of us retold its story. There was a lot of laughter and a few tears which is what you should expect from the experience of sifting through a life.
The greatest discoveries were always the photographs. I think we unearthed at least six drawers worth of photos. Some were carefully placed in albums with hand-penned descriptions, but most were loose and scattered about. I think it is wonderful that there were so many. I used to make fun of my mother because she always had her camera and seemed to be trying to document every moment of my childhood in pictures. Now, I am thankful she did. I am horrible at remembering to even bring my camera, much less snap a few shots off. I need to force myself to get better at it.
If my mom weren’t so obsessed with taking pictures, I would not have come across this in one of grandma’s drawers:
That’s me and my dog, Scruffy, who was by my side for over sixteen years. Call me biased, but that’s some cute shiz, there! That’s also, if you’ve been paying attention, the very first photo I’ve ever posted of myself. I look pretty much the same.
This next photo I found mixed in with newspaper clippings and bills:
That’s my grandma, Lena, probably taken when she was in her 40′s (she’s 94, now). I really like this picture because she appears to have her guard down and is relaxed, which is rare. I don’t think she liked having her picture taken much. I also like it because I can really see my mother’s resemblance.
Speaking of mom:
She’s probably having a cow right about now. At least these are the cute ones, mom! I could have posted the ones of you and your accordion. Yeah, I have those and I’m keeping them veeerrry safe. So, be nice or I may have to make one of those pictures my blog’s header image one day.
From those three pictures I’ve learned that the inability to cut straight bangs is a genetic trait. There are more than a couple photos of my sister and I looking like our bangs were hacked at by an epileptic hobo. My sister grew out her bangs years ago, but I have a forehead you could play ping-pong on, so I need the fringe to de-emphasize my overabundance of face. My mom finally got better at cutting them as I got older, but eventually I had to do it on my own cause my hair grows way too fast to have a professional cut them every time. Yeah, the pictures of my early attempts at cutting bangs are for family viewing only. Luckily, an acceptable style now is more side-swept and wispy, which I can sorta manage.
Here is another picture we found:
This is the house my grandpa and grandma built in Nashville, MI. I remember tobogganing down the hill in the winter (to the left of the house in the photo) and picking blueberries in the summer. Every memory I have of my grandpa (he died in 1979 when I was five) involves this house. Grandma lived here until the early 80′s, which is when she bought her condo in Hastings, MI.
So, yes, cleaning out grandma’s condo wasn’t all toil and turmoil. I got to spend time with my family, both physically and in memory. However, neither my sister nor I have any desire to go through this sort of ordeal again. We told our mother to start tossing out all her worthless crap right now, because if she doesn’t, when she’s 90, we’ll just tie her to a chair and burn it all right in front of her while she screams helplessly. I don’t recommend this tactic for every family, but it works for ours.