My six year old recently said to me, "I like Nanny's house because it is like one big garage sale. You never know what kind of fun treasure you will find."
I know exactly what he means. Upon approaching a house holding a garage sale, my children jump out of the car and run up the driveway. They are half way through all the stuff when I finally catch up with them. I am sure they have startled a number of people on their way up various drives. They are eager to be the first to find a Lego set or some odd toy. I am eager to find old sheets, tablecloths, old vintage curtains, children's cloths--items that will find some new purpose.
With that same "garage sale" eagerness, I too found myself enjoying to be in my mother's house on our recent visit to America, but it hasn't always been this way. In fact, for years it was difficult to literally sit in her house for there was too much stuff--both physically and emotionally--to sort through. I used to blame her for it, but now I know my own emotional sorting kept me from sitting with her all those years. I am sad for all the years wasted when we couldn't sit together in her house because her stuff and my stuff got in the way, but on this visit I was able to see her home--and even her--in a new way. Like one big garage sale. Some treasures, some junk.
The real treasures I found in her house were the ones that hold a story. A family story. The cookie press that we used every Christmas. The blue tablecloth brought out only on special occasions. The simple white sheets with blue flowers that covered my parent's king size bed.
As I began to collect these things, I noticed a pattern surfacing. I would go off on my own for a while into some room, look around, collect something interesting, and then bring it to my mother so we could remember together. While I don't fully understand its depth, I am sure this process is healing. I was sorting through objects, memories, lost expectations, trying to make some meaning of it all. Perhaps my mother just enjoyed remembering. I am mid-life, she is end-of-life, so it makes sense that our healing is different.
"You know why else I like Nanny's house? I like it because I imagine you walking and playing on the floor there. You lived there and must have taken lots of steps there."
Ah, he's right. Yes, the wisdom of a six year old. The treasure is me. It is my mother. It is the memory of childhood. It is our relationship--the mother and the child that has always existed in that special space. The treasure is the thought of all that was good and of all that continues to be good. One big garage sale.