Monday, May 11, 2015


10 years 8 months in this house. The longest time I've been at any address. And the place I've most not wanted to be. My father and brother have lived here since 1992. My mother died in this house in 1998. I've struggled with learning about the father who was my mother's husband, and my brother's father. And with me. Saturday my sister-in-law and her daughter helped me with packing. We spent an afternoon in one closet, sorting the picture albums. All the pictures my parents moved from England, Finland and their last house. A long closet, with the top shelf stuffed to the ceiling with pictures covering over 100 years. Six generations. This picture is at one of my marital homes, with a big pool and time with the nieces and nephews and the happy memories. The little girl in the picture is the woman who helped with the pictures. My sister-in-law (who's been 40 years in the family) said "ah, look at this," at most albums, and I said, "take it, or pitch it." She's been my family for most of my adult life, and I love her most for her compassion. My niece took pictures of the cousins and put them on facebook, and held the garbage bags open. I took 20 garbage bags to the curb today, and they were heavy. The photos we ditched were 1) people we didn't know, 2) trips we didn't take, and 3) all my mother's church stuff. Both my wedding albums went in the trash, and they were my albums. Did my mother have a photo album of my weddings? No. Did my mother have any albums of any of our weddings? No. Me, two. John. Paul. David. Susan. No wedding pictures. Were there 10 garbage bags of church trips? Yes. There were photo albums of funerals - my great-grandmother and grandmother in coffins. Bizarre! I remember yelling at my mother at my grandmother's funeral as she snapped away. "What's wrong with you?" My sister-in-law remembered, too. So, all in the trash. 20 bags. I saved the albums of Aunt Suoma and her friends. Carefree, happy, kick-line beach bunny girlfriends in the 1920s in America. And the pictures of my grandmother Saima, strong, how I remembered her. And my niece was interested to hear. She shot meat, skinned it, caught fish, kick-sledded where she needed to go, didn't suffer fools lightly and loved me. Like I love my niece. Fierce. And proud. I saved pictures of my mother for me. Pictures of how I would have liked to know her. Strong. Not the strong that she made up as she went along, but truly strong. There's one picture in the box I saved that I will take to my grave. In this picture, the wind is in her hair. She smiles with the knowledge that she is invincible. That whatever life brings she will conquer. Before I knew her: before. We're moving. It is the last move for my father, who still can't sort out why his mother died when he was 13. It never changed for him. I wonder if women get over it? My brother, who may have lost what sense of the world he had when my grandmother died. He has Alzheimer's disease. And me. Is this my last house? Dad and Scott and me will move from the house where we lost. For a while, I hope it will be the house where we gain.