This past week I flew to my home state of Texas with a friend. I needed to sell my mother’s belongings and I gave myself a rigid deadline. I would have an estate sale, sell my mom’s house and two cars all within a week. I knew the amount of work would be enormous because I had seen how well my mother hoards. The house is neat and organized but there are items stored everywhere. She loves paper clutter and plastic tubs food comes in from the grocery store.
When we arrived things got off to a rocky start. The door that should have been unlocked was locked and all the keys were inside the house. I had to call a locksmith. Once in the house, we thought we could relax but the doorbell rang. It was the Police. Someone thought a burglar paid a locksmith to into my mother’s house.
By this time I had a chance to look around the house and note the overwhelming amount of items that needed to gotten rid of. It’s amazing how we spend our lives collecting things and then spend the end of our lives getting rid of it all.
What happened next reaffirmed my belief in the goodness of people. To be more specific, people who grew up poor. One neighbor brought home made meals and iced tea to drink. Two local friends jumped in and helped me sort through things as well as sell items at the estate sale. One of the friends had been up all night at his dying grandmother’s bedside. He joined us for several hours despite the lack of sleep and was an excellent salesman.
The other friend stayed by my side during the entire week, helping me sell, move things and get the house ready for sale. Once we sold all our furniture he and his wife offered us a couch to crash on for our final night. The thing is, I did not have to ask for anyone’s help. Everyone just jumped in and helped where they could.
I had forgotten how well mannered the people of the south are. Everywhere we went, men waited for us and held doors open for us. Even if we were several steps behind, they waited. At each place we went, people greeted us with a friendly hello and a smile. There were lots of yes ma’am’s and yes sir’s thrown around. The kindness offered to us while we were there helped make a tough week bearable.
When I came back home, a friend invited me to her house for a home cooked meal. We talked for hours about her homeland in the Philippines. What struck me was the stories she told were the same as what I had experienced in my home town. Even though living in extreme poverty, the people would do anything for you.
When it comes down to it, I think what makes people who come from poverty special is their humility and generosity. I know I am humbled and grateful for all the kindness shown to me these past two weeks.
In my twenties I lived in a rundown quadruplex. I was broke as were the three other tenants. The rent was cheap as was the quality of the apartment. One night while sitting outside with one of the neighbors, we had a conversation about possessions and our lack of them. The conversation then turned to my neighbor’s grandmother. He told me his grandmother spent her final days in a nursing home. She was only allowed a minimal amount of possessions. Everything she treasured fit in a shoebox. What she filled her shoebox with were photos of family and the people she loved, a few trinkets and her beloved chocolat. (Insert French accent here)
These days as my mother slips into her final days, I wonder at the difference between her and my friend’s grandmother. My mother was born in the thirties to a middle class family living in a third world country. They became middle class by scrimping and saving. After marrying my father, they were also thrifty with their money on an income that would qualify at just above the poverty level.
My mother turned out to be a thrifty and clean hoarder. She collects things like the plastic tubs margarine comes in, empty boxes a package came in and other useless items. She thinks someday they will come in handy. When I tried to get her to get rid of these things she fought hard to keep them. For whatever reason, these are the things she finds hard to let go of. Now the time has come where she has to downsize. She too will find herself in a nursing home where she will be able to keep only a few possessions. I am not sure she can bring herself to do it. Ridding her life of these possessions, I am sure has played a part in her hesitation to move.
I have been thinking about my shoebox. With the advancements in technology, I would only need my cell phone or a small tablet in my shoebox to look at dozens of photos. There are a few things that I have kept from the departed. Right now they are in a storage box that would fit under my bed. I treasure the little things people give me, a gift from the heart that makes me smile when I look at it. I will add ashes from my departed dogs. Someday I would like to have the ashes made into a glass trinket. I have no immediate family, no husband and no kids, only dogs. My box will look alot like my friend’s grandmothers. It will have a few tokens, a few photos, lots of smiles, lots of tears and a whole lot of chocolat.