Scavenging a Family History
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Pieces of a past
So I scavenge. I have found scraps of paper with hand-scribbled notes from 20 years ago in her desk and among her things. A treasure of about 5 years’ worth of slides was my most recent discovery—pictures that jogged memories of a Florida vacation when I was 6 and Halloweens around the same time (because we didn’t have a projector, those images weren’t part of the regular family lexicon of memories pulled off the shelf occasionally like the ones that lived in photo albums). I read the book that was on her nightstand, bookmarked just past the halfway point, and felt pangs of guilt when I passed that mark myself, knowing her mind hadn’t traversed the same fictional terrain. I am currently in the process of selling her house (it has taken two long years, and I still knock on wood when mentioning the status now, yet pending) and am finally getting around to cleaning her basement. A dear friend who has done much to help me—including surveying the contents of a damp basement I couldn’t bring myself around to cleaning two years ago—recently braved the dark and the mice and called me to say that amidst the boxes of old clothes she unearthed a plastic tote of grade school things of my mother’s. A musty Catholic school uniform, black marble composition pads with her little girl handwriting. Even report cards. I haven’t seen them yet, but it is things like this that she had a hand in creating or that were part of the fabric of her young life that make me feel like, at least occasionally, there are still things I may discover about her.
My mother, Lillian Roode, pregnant with me at 22—looking like a baby at her baby shower.
I am so grateful and blessed to have had my mother in my life as a friend and confidant and nurturer for the first 39 years of my life, and I am fortunate that she was able to meet my own son before she passed away. My memories are rich and full, and I do what I can to talk about her in little ways to my son. But I will never stop feeling like I am searching for something, for a family history for which there is no text book.