Culling Down

We’ve all gone through so many phases and feelings the past nine months, it’s hard to sort out if it’s time to grieve some more, focus on the positive once again or start over on the hall closet. Part of all of those processes has been a culling down, a prioritization, of what matters.

What clothes will we really wear in 2022? Is that red skirt I’ve been saving for a holiday party ever going to fit anyway, particularly with some slight Covid poundage added?

That’s hardly worth pondering when the real priorities have become so clear, who we love and the health of those dear ones and our world.

But culling has its own stages.  That red skirt will likely go, as will a remarkably growing pile of extra everything. I have a lot of jewelry from my mother, and, as part of my updated, fear-based planning, have delineated where everything will go, which daughter or daughter-in-law, which grandchild will receive pieces based on who my mother was and who I see in a growing two- or four-year-old projected into adulthood.

What I’ve discovered, as I’m sure most have, is how simple everything becomes when you are living through a pandemic. I absolutely always knew that the red skirt was a silly purchase and would likely never be worn. And, though I’ve enjoyed my mother’s jewels, I’m not really a jewelry person, so living without putting them on every once in a while, just cements that fact.  My focus is where everyone’s is these days; taking care of myself and supporting those I know and my community.

Yet, in the process of ascertaining the value placed on the jewels, the skirts, the Zoom calls that are my emotional sustenance for now, I found an object I had been ignoring for years and now is one of my most precious possessions.

My mother, who passed away nearly seven years ago, had been a beautiful, elegant woman, and because I was an only child, I’d always felt close to her. Naturally, when she began to slip into her long years of living with dementia, I cared for her in every way, including hiring extra companions which she luckily could afford. They were a godsend to me, enabling me to still see Mom a few times a week but not worry about her on the alternate days.

She had dementia for a very long time, and the process was difficult to witness. During the last couple of years when she could still engage with others, her caregiver took her on an excursion to one of those places where you can ‘create’ and decorate pottery.

My mom, with help, of course, chose to create a small, heart shaped box. She painted it lime green, which was her favorite color besides hot pink.  That hot pink was the color she chose to write “Rom”, which is what she called me, on the top of the box. And on the bottom of the container, she wrote “Joan”, her name.

When she gave me the box, I had been touched, but didn’t fully understand the symbolism of the gift. It was her last gesture of mother to daughter, of being able to ‘give’ me something. Not long after that, the real drifting away began.

In my culling this past year, I was cleaning out my office and had to decide what to do about the box, which had been a receptable for paper clips. Of course, I would never get rid of it, but did it belong in my office now?

It didn’t.

I emptied the box, washed it, and moved it to my bedroom. It’s empty now, but when I see it, I think of that gift and the poignancy of its moment in time. It’s much more important to me than the diamonds and the pearls. That box has joined the few pieces of my life that HAVE been winnowed down to what I cherish during these challenging times. The lime green box with the pink writing joins the small circle of human treasures.

It’s the only object that doesn’t contain a beating heart, but somehow, it does.

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