When I was at my dad's house in February, I was cleaning through some stuff, just like every other time I've been down there since my mom died. This time, though, it was with a little more urgency, because Dad wants to sell the house. So I spent the week down there packing things into boxes, and deciding which portions of my childhood were to be kept and which portions were to be thrown away.
I threw a lot of stuff away. I mostly kept photo albums and books, a few housewares -- finally, an improvement over my college silverware from Walmart! -- some knick-knacks. I left the stuff I didn't know what to do with -- the collectible dolls, the artwork, the furniture.
I gave my Barbies to my friend's daughters and I brought some Beanie Babies for my nephew and cousins to play with, but I put the rest of the stuffed animals and Cabbage Patch Kids in a green Rubbermaid bin with a note that said "free to good home."
After all that, I went through some files. In the drawer, I found my birth certificate, my parents' ketubah, other various and sundry mementos that my mother held on to. I also found a red box with a pair of tiny, gold, hoop earrings. They were not my mother's taste, or even my Nana's or my sister's. They were clearly mine. In all likelihood, my mother had bought me a present and forgot where she left it. But in that moment, it was as if she knew that one day I would be going through all of the stuff, and wanted to leave me a token of her appreciation, a thank-you for coming in and trying to make order out of her chaos. A final gift.