She was Rachel Carson of the kitchen. Window ledge peppered with driftwood and mussel shells from the cove across the street. Turkey feathers from the backyard. Sprigs of goldenrod in rusty tea tins.
Her cooking was an extension of the great outdoors. The essays she wrote for her monthly food newsletter were embellished with pen-and-ink sketches of starfish and crabapples from our orchard, their dull thud a lullaby for deer at dawn and dusk.
Crockpot applesauce called for precisely eighteen of those very crabapples, as indicated on the cider-splattered recipe card. Her cobbler required blueberries she’d picked each summer. During her vegetarian phase, she made peanut loaf using freshly-grated carrots from the garden. “Better than meatloaf,” she said. It wasn’t.
Her love for the outdoors extended beyond the kitchen; like the spruce-choked woods and saltwater breezes surrounding us, the farmhouse begged that all its rooms be nature-clad. So she draped snakeskins over her collection of King Henry VIII dolls. Looped dried lobster antennae into a chain like the construction paper Christmas garland I made in school, hanging it from the beams of our barn-turned-living-room.
Cleansing the soul of this house fuses our creative spirits while she is still on this earth. And although my mother is not physically here, her aura cradles me with comfort and inspiration.
Part Three in a Three-Part Series
The soul-searching silent solitude, the rhythm of the tides from the cove across the street—I live what my mother lived when she was alone in this house, speaking to the spiders who inhabited the cobwebbed corners of her bedroom, before afternoons became terror-filled and cookbooks were no longer familiar friends.
Her artist’s studio stretches into a week-long project, too painful to sort through in one day. Friends who’ve been there tell me they’ve found valuables, money even, stashed in pages of ancient Time magazines. I find no diamonds but plenty of hidden gems in her vast portfolio of creativity: fashion ads, hand decorated menus, floral watercolor sketches, essays from her monthly newsletter, smudged with age.
The house, I decide, will be a tribute to her life, her free spirit released from the dusty piles of an ever increasing brain disease, dusted off to showcase her eclectic talent.
Part Two in a Three-Part Series
I am purging my mother’s house, what the Swedes call a “death cleaning.” Although she’s still alive, a jump start on organizing this cluttered house seemed easier now than after her passing, But there is no perfect time.
This house will always be haunted with the memories of an exceptional life: a young woman, fresh from art school, honing her artistic talent through the years and unlike what I now witness on a daily basis–the disintegration of a human being who, in my life, has always been so confident and strong. Her loss of identity has become part of my heart.
I can’t toss these memories in a trash bag, along with the rubber band collection and dusty cans of Glade and newspaper clippings. What will I do with all the things I can’t bring myself to throw away?