What We Keep


My dad has sold his house. It’s a practical decision based on his declining health. Without medical insurance, he needs the liquidity and fortunately, he was able to sell the house well. Instead, he will rent a much, much smaller house and there are many reasons why this is all hard on him. Perhaps the hardest is he kept a handful of my mom’s ashes and buried them in spot here in the garden overlooking the river and her beloved orchids. Two or three or even four times a day, he goes out to be with his memories of her and this extraordinarily beautiful piece of land that cradles my mom’s very few earthly remains.

I came to spend a week with him to help make the move. Today it’s been all about the closets. I’ve only gotten through one of the hallway closets and there are 4 more to go. They reveal the layers of my parents’ life together—I found the awards and medals my dad received from Sweden and Colombia including the one he got when he was knighted by the King of Sweden. A scrap of the fabric that my mom used to reupholster the bedboard in their room—I was still in elementary school when that happened. One of the things my dad keeps saying is “make sure you take whatever you want for your own self”.

Of course there’s a part of me that wants to scoop up first one thing then another, mainly because so many have memories attached to them but also because my mother truly had exquisite taste.  Being surrounded by beautiful things was so important to her. I absorbed that without every having examined it consciously. Today there was almost nothing that tugged at me except these three things: my mother’s high school class ring. One of my parents’ engraved calling cards; theirs was such a proper time and place. A lock of hair that fell out from a small box, a lock of fine, soft hair that belonged to one of the three of us who were once her babies.

I still have to go through four large closets that are pretty jam packed. And that’s just the start of my work.

5 thoughts on “What We Keep

  1. I am thinking of you everyday. Your writing today made me so aware that I daily live amongst my parents’ things in the house that was once theirs. And of course our things are mixed in with theirs. But in so many ways, it is still their home. When our family gathers for thanksgiving here, it is a little bit of time travel…..and it will not always be so. This is where we have always gathered as “home.” And I hate to think that one day in the not so distant future, I will be cleaning out closets, deciding what to keep and what not. It is an awesome feeling.

  2. Que lindo. You have a beautiful flair for writing. I helped my mom pack up my grandparent’s home a few years ago. It was very difficult. That was our “home” base in the USA when we would return from Cali and my home base while I lived in Tennessee for school. So many memories. I can’t imagine what it will be like when I have to pack up Mom’s house. She keeps trying to downsize a bit but there is a lot there, with many items that have very special memories for me. Un abrazo.

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