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We were in no rush. Our mother had lived in her own apartment in my sister’s home, with her own kitchen, her own laundry room, her own glass doors that opened to her own patio where she tended her own potted plants.
Our mother had a favorite chair where she would watch the Rockies play with the newspaper box scores in her hand.
She had a lovely and inviting guest room where I stayed for a few months when I moved to Arvada and waited for my own new home to be ready.
So when she died on her birthday 10 years ago, there was no immediate need to clear out her things.
No house to pack up and close. No cross-country trips to settle her affairs and no U-Haul filled with just a selection of the best that would fit.
Instead, one day, we would finally begin to sort through the items of an 89-year-life well loved.
Here is the silky scarf I will keep tucked in my top drawer because I imagine it carries her scent.
And the fragile gauzy handkerchief — something borrowed — that I carried in my wedding.
I will keep it now.
Some of our mother’s jewelry will find its way to the girls of the family — me, my sister, my sister’s daughter. Most will reside in a velvet-lined box on my sister’s closet shelf, where our grandmother’s jewelry has also lived for more than 30 years.
Our mother’s table linens reflect some 60 years of her style.
Art deco patterns, bright florals, tassels and fringe. Cocktail napkins starched and crisply pressed into a square the size of my palm.
Her collection of tableware tells the stories of the people she entertained. Now I become the owner of some of these things and I wonder, what shall I do?
I no longer own a dining table. What shall I do with this soft pink linen cloth that matches the gentle willow pattern of her China?
What will I do with dozens of her glass tea sets, cups so small one can barely hook a finger through the handles, footed cups that sit snugly into a corner of an elegant glass tray made to hold little more than a cucumber sandwich?
I don’t remember her serving cucumber sandwiches, though. I do recall precise triangles filled with egg salad, crusts neatly removed, a perfect slice of pimento tooth-picked on top.
Here are two pieces of metal art. In photographs of me as a baby, they are hanging on her walls, mute sentinels. Now they will hang on my walls, again my guardians.
I know nothing about box scores, but I will avidly watch the Broncos, the Avalanche, and —sometimes — the Rockies from her favorite blue chair.
Here are her lamps, from the ‘50s and the ‘60s, curving brushed metals, octagonal insets, stiff pristine shades.
I will keep one of these lamps, and after the cord burns out and sparks across the floor, I will drive around with it in the back of my car because I will not be able to part with it.
My sister will take it over and have the lamp lovingly repaired.
I will keep, in a wooden glassed-in box, the flag pulled taut and ceremoniously folded during her funeral at Fort Logan National Cemetery. One officer presented it to us with thanks from a grateful nation.
Another played “Taps.” We didn’t stay for the inurnment in the plot where my father’s ashes lay, also honoring his own service in World War II.
Later, at her memorial service, standing room only. Her children and their children. Playmates and workmates and spouses, or not, of her loved ones. Friends of their friends. Ladies who sewed together. Compatriots of her own age who had also served in Europe or the Pacific.
When it seemed there was no more to say, one of these soldiers — from the back of the room and in his uniform from the second World War — one of these snapped his fingers to his cap, called out: “Rosemary! One last salute.”
This, too, I will keep.
Andrea Doray is a writer who honors all mothers and thanks all those who serve and have served. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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