Little Treasures of Life
The Locker Room
A couple of years ago now, with our mother's impending move to a nursing home, my sister and I finally got down to a job that we had been putting off for months, that of cleaning out one of our mother's two locker room areas. It was not a job we were looking forward to because this particular locker was in the vacinity of the parking garage and was therefore, at the time of year we were doing this, very cold, and for lack of a better word - dirty because of it's open cage design. Clothed in old coats and gloves in hand we set to work.
How does one collect so much stuff for one locker, never mind two? It was literally packed tight from front to back and side to side. I'm sure several of those boxes had never been opened in years. To say that our mother was a bit of a packrat is putting it very mildly. And of course by now we believed and understood that she likely always had an undiagnosed Obsessive Compulsive with a Personality disorder. Enough said about that!
Junk, Junk, Junk
This title made me giggle because I remember way back to my highschool days, a teacher that I was glad I never had by the way, because he would have scared the bejeevers out of me. He was as I recall a Science teacher; he would ask a student a question and if he didn't like the answer he would exclaim in disgust "junk, junk, junk". Of course this has nothing at all to with my mother, but putting down this title reminded me of those school days. It's truly amazing what is buried deep inside our minds.
Back to the task at hand! Setting to work we found boxes of old Christmas Decorations which went mostly to the Good Shepherd, with the exception of a few pieces that we ourselves could not resist. As if either of us needed more stuff! But I really did need one of her beautiful angels; after all it would always be something I would remember mom by. Wading through cast aside kitchen items we quickly decided which was still good enough to give to charity, or which had to end up in the garbage or recycle bins. I tell a little lie when I say quickly because in fact, in all, we spent almost four hours there and after coming out coughing and dusting ourselves off, we still had a stack at the very back of the locker to go through. Now we decided we need a break for maybe lunch or even just a coffee!
After coffee break we were back at it again. Not surprised at all to find stacks and stacks of magazines in bags, we loaded a shopping cart with these finds and took them out to the recycle bins - two grocery cart loads in all. But hey, you never know when you might find a good recipe in there. At least that was mom's logic; we just smiled and shook our heads.
Toward the back we found a long narrow Birks Box. For those not Canadian, Birks has always been one of our finest stores for anything in not only china, tableware and jewelry but for anything collectible to do with household or giftware. We thought surely there must be a treasure inside this box. Imagine our surprise when we opened the box to find a "Bullmaster". What? Neither of us could ever imagine our mother exercising with that thing. But then we did remember the period she went through in her fifties when all of a sudden she was donning running shoes and taking up jogging. That didn't last too long, and I suspect neither did this Bullmaster.
Life's Little Treasures
Just as we were about to call it quits for the day, I noticed a plastic bag with handles sitting against the wall. Picking it up I immediately saw that it had some weight to it. Taking a quick look inside I could see what appeared to be two huge photos. Opening them up I discovered they were of my "first" wedding back in 1967 - one of me posing by myself in front of St. Anthony of Padua's Church and the second one of the wedding party. What a nice surprise and how great that mom had never got rid of these. Twenty years ago I may have destroyed them, but as my husband always told me "they are part of my past history", so why not keep them. This was surely one time that I was glad my mom was a bit of a hoarder.
Then we discovered what was so heavy. Stacked next to the photos were several old LP records. Taking them out we saw two 33 1/3 LP's. One was Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty which my sister recognized as being one of hers as a young child; and the other was Mario Lanza sings Christmas Songs. On the back of this albumn cover it says Mario Lanza with orchestra conducted by Ray Sinatra. Following was a story of how Mario got his start. This would surely have belonged solely to our mother who was a huge fan.
Next to these albums were eight larger LPs. Sorting through them we saw "The Barber of Seville" "La Traviata" and "Rigoletto" - all sets included. We naturally thought these must have belonged to our father who we remembered playing his Opera music on Sunday mornings down in the basement. No way these were going to the dump.
Then we noticed two more items. The first one was a huge map of Tuktoyaktuk Harbour in the Canadian Northwest Territories. With this find came rushing back the memory of our mom flying out to Edmonton, Alberta and then making her way up by small plane to Tuktoyaktuk to visit with her second husband, from whom she was separated from at the time, but nonetheless - no questions from us - we recalled the photo we saw of her in a "skirt just to her knees" and "little ankle boots" - in Tuktoyaktuk. Uh-Huh! At the memory we just laughed.
And then we opened the remaining flimsy bag and found two studio photos of a man, a man we have never before in our life seen, nor have any clue as to who the heck he is. There he is, chin on hand, looking out at the camera. No name anywhere on the back, he is a mystery man. This again does not surprise us. Our mom was full of surprises and she always danced to her own tune. After all this is a woman who once drove all the way from her home in Ontario to Accapulco Mexico, all by herself, not wanting to fly with the others. When my aunt insisted I try to talk her out of it, what I got was a blast on the phone and the receiver being slammed down in my hear. Do you think I was going to ask her who this man was?!! No, not on your life!
Neither of us mentioned our find to our mother this day. We had enough to do just filling her in with what we had done so far, and it was soon time to head for home. On the way home I got to thinking about the Opera records and recalled that my sister already had all of Dad's records. Sure enough the next time I was down at mom's I mentioned our find to her and she confirmed "oh no those were not your dad's they were my mother's" And with those words wonderful memories came back to me. Memories of coming into my grandmother's house after school, hearing the music and seeing the pocket doors to the dining room closed. In this memory I am once again quietly sliding the pocket door back, just a bit in order to see Nonna, whom I know will be sitting at the dining table,albumn in hand, singing along to La Traviata or Rigoletto.
It's amazing how a simple find like this can take you back more than fifty years, and yet you can still see it like it was yesterday. The mystery man remains our mother's secret. After all everyone has to have a little juicy story to keep to themselves from their past. For now, these things remain in my basement in the same bag. Who knows, maybe one day my grandchildren will find them in my locker!