I opened a box that was sealed since 1972 and it smelled old, air trapped in time. Death and time have a scent.
I thought 8 years ago, I had donated all of my mother’s belongings, apparently, I had not. My father did not open any of the drawers in the bedroom furniture they once shared. The armoire, dresser, side tables, filled with stuff, left untouched since 1996. I have been shredding bills and paper from the early 90’s for several days. We are donating the furniture at the end of the month.
Then there is the basement, where I discovered a room filled with her belongings. I have filled over 30 medium boxes of things to donate, in the hope someone else might be interested in the vintage – vinyl records, VHS tapes, audio tapes, books from the 70’s, a full mint condition Encyclopedia set from A-Z, clocks, pencil holders, bags, and clothes with shoulder pads.
In the box from 1972, the year my mother’s mother died, it looked as if, she decided one day to close the box and never look at it again. Enclosed was her daily planner from that year, letters, photos, a Queens library card and basic identification cards, her mother’s and father’s death certificate. It is as if she pushed it under the bed and forgot about it, not to be opened until I took a screwdriver to pry it open, 42 years later.
I learned my mother took French in college. She enjoyed classes on Marxism and took Chemistry, Psychology and Chinese History classes. She had lived in Boston and San Francisco. She traveled around the world, all before I was born.
I kept two vintage Polaroid pop-up cameras from the 1970’s with the original cases, a few VHS tapes that my mother recorded for us from TV – my favorite the Ewok Adventures, The Battle for Endor (1985), Saturday morning cartoons – My Little Pony and He-Man, a few vintage vinyl records and 2 baby blankets from our childhood.
My dad asked, “did you see those new slippers that were on the shelf?” I replied, “yes, and they ended up boxed up in one of the 30 boxes. If you had wanted them, you should have said something. You said to box everything in this room.” He said, “well they were new, and they were for Kandice. The store doesn’t sell them anymore.” I said, “you can reopen all the boxes to look for them.”
My brother said the same thing, “hey, did you find the binoculars?” “Yes, a few days ago, and they went in a box. You didn’t say I should have kept them.” The binoculars were heavy and from the 70’s. I am wondering if I need to go reopen the boxes to pull out the slippers and the binoculars. It’s only time and tape.
More tiring than the death of my grandmother and aunt is the handling of my mother’s belongings again. It feels as if I am grieving for her once more. This is why my dad could not part with it. This is why my mother sealed the box in 1972.