Seems a lot of my healing has centered around rifling through boxes lately. Three boxes to be precise. One of them has been sitting in the corner of my bedroom since July. I just didn’t have the courage to open it. It contained my mother’s jewelry box, some photos, my mom’s bible, a few photo albums and the guest books from both of my parent’s funerals. I have to admit I haven’t done much with this box, except be a little proud that I finally opened it. I know that I want to put pictures of my parents up somewhere in the house, I just haven’t figured out a way that feels comfortable to me yet, so for now there are a just a few prints of them on the fridge. I want to open my Mother’s bible someday soon. I know that there are sticky notes, bulletins and highlighted verses that will help me feel closer to her somehow. I’m just not there yet and I don’t feel any pressure. They day will come, and it will be therapeutic and perfectly timed.
The second box is the jewelry box itself, when I finally got the strength to open it I was surprised my Mother had so many accessories. I had never seen it all in one place before, it was always scattered around the house in small bowls, on windowsills and end tables. I found her cheerleading pin in here as well as little sterling lockets which contain pictures of my sister and I. There are several long pendant necklaces she wore that I remember playing with in church when I was little. I would lay there with my head buried in her sweater and twirl the pendants. Since we went to church twice on Sundays this entertainment was crucial for my making it through church un-spanked. That and begging my Dad for Mentos and Dutch peppermints.
The third box is my Mother’s recipe box, which has been in my pantry for over a year now. I never knew that so many memories could come drifting from a box, but I can assure you with 110% of my heart that as I flip through the cards I can almost smell the food from my childhood. This is the least organized recipe box you will ever find and the divider cards seem to be merely a suggestion. There are cakes in the chicken section and casseroles behind the dessert tab. Some recipes are on 3 x 5 cards but most are scribbled on drug rep note pad paper she brought home from work. My mom was a little absentminded so several recipes are in there more than once, I assume she just called a friend to get the recipe again instead of rifling through the box to find the first copy.
So now I have these boxes, these memories in my house and they are slowly starting to bleed into the life of my small, new family. I may take some of the jewelry in to a jewelry shop and use the stones and gold to make something new for to wear, to remind me that I am many things that my parents were, just in a new and healthier setting. Sunday night I pulled the recipe for apple crisp out of my Mom’s box and made it for my wonderful church friends at our Fallapalooza picnic. Although I added a bit of nutmeg and rolled oats to put my own spin on it. I took what was hers and carried into my life, with a few of my own special touches.
This is a really healthy and necessary approach to grieving, It’s good to take pieces of those you’ve lost and weave them into your own unique life. If you are healing from the loss of someone who died in an unhealthy place, like I am with my Mom, you have to seek out the healthy scraps and put them in your quilt. I find it healthy to own the good pieces with pride.
So I’ll make a new ring from the unused gold and I’ll back apple crisp with nutmeg. When the times comes I will share these boxes with my kids and show them a window into their Grandma and Grandpa who they’ll never know, but who loved them like crazy even if they only ever got to love the idea of them.