Today is the day for cleaning out. I’ve pretty well done the closets and got a good start on the drawers, and today it’s time — past time — to tackle that stuff from the old trunk. Some of it no doubt has value, but I have neither the time nor expertise to list and sell it. Most will go to the church rummage sale — if we ever get back on track — but some stuff surely is eBay worthy. Here are some little baby shoes — black leather with black velvet tops. They’ve been worn, but still in good shape. Must be pretty old – perhaps mother’s baby shoes. Someone will know what to do with them, but not me. Into the box they go.
I’m putting stuff in a box to sell to whoever lists things on-line. Buy the whole box, no picking and choosing. Get it out of here. Pay me a little and make yourself a lot. Just get it gone.
So here’s a pretty little red gift box from Bullocks. (If you lived in L.A. in those days, you’ll remember Bullocks.) What is in here? A set of four silver apple-shaped little trays. Individual ash trays, I’m thinking. I turn them over: Reed and Barton Sterling . Must be worth something. Should I put it into the box? I look up Reed and Barton on-line. Oops, shouldn’t do that — I love silver. I find myself scrolling through page after page and thinking, “those spoons look like the ones from Grandmother.” It’s like watching Antiques Road Show and suddenly thinking, “Hey, we used to have an inlaid cigarette box. I wonder whatever happened to it. Wait, it’ worth how much?” Stop scrolling, dagnabit, and get back to work.
Okay, here are some children’s books: The Little Engine that Could and the Ugly Duckling both from 1936. My brother’s. Here are a couple of mine – not so famous. I leaf through them and end up reading the Ugly Duckling from start to finish. Poor duckling – he had a very hard first year, but he survived and turned out to be the most beautiful swan of all. Was it a morality story for children? Perhaps.
Here’s a flat blue and gold box with the name Stratton on the lid and — in tiny letters – “made in England.” I open it and find a compact. Remember when ladies used to carry a compact in their purse so they could powder their nose? It’s triangle shaped, white enamel with blue birds flying across and gold ribbons scrolled along the edges. I open it – still has a powder puff, but the mirror is broken. No good to anyone, but I can’t bear to throw it out — mother told me it was the first gift dad ever gave her. Let someone else do that.
What’s this thing? A very small silver box. Maybe an inch long, engraved with little leaves all around. It rattles. I spot a tiny indentation and pry it open. And here are … teeth. Baby teeth? The kind of thing a parent would keep. But they don’t look like teeth. More like misshapen pieces of ivory. But no, they must be teeth. What am I gonna do with those? Throw them out, obviously, but the little silver casket? I set it back in the “figure out later” pile. I really gotta decide. This can’t go on forever.
Oh, look at this little thing. A small velvet black bag with something snugged inside. I gently undo the gold drawstrings and reveal a wee perfume bottle nestled in white satin. Crepe de Chine – my mother’s perfume. The bottle reads “E Millot Paris, France, 1/4 fl.oz.” I carefully open the bottle. Real French perfume, as fresh as the day my mother first opened it. A faint cloud of fragrance drifts out and I’m slammed back 70 years. I am six years old and mother and dad are going out. A very special occasion. Mother leans over to kiss me goodnight and I am surrounded by the lovely scent. “You look so beautiful,” I tell her. She is wearing the blue crystal necklace with the matching earrings and a slinky black dress I have seen only once before. Her eyes are sparkling. Dad is standing beside her looking handsome. They look so perfect together, and happy. “Goodnight, sweetheart. Sweet dreams. We’ll see you in the morning,” daddy leans over and gives me a kiss. The image fades, but as I sit here, the Crepe de Chine lingers and I wish — oh how I wish — I could go back for just a few minutes. Hug them one more time and tell them how much I love them and miss them.
This is hard — this is so hard. I can’t keep these treasures. Nothing lasts forever.
I have to let them go. I pick them all up — the gift box from Bullocks with the silver ash trays, the silver “casket,” minus the teeth, the kids books and the baby shoes, the compact with the broken mirror and .. my hand stops. “Let it go,” my mind says. I reach for the black velvet bag with the empty perfume bottle. “No!” my heart tells me. I can’t. I can’t. I reach instead for the Kleenex, and then I walk away. Tomorrow. I’ll do it tomorrow.
Tonight I will sleep with the perfume bottle beside my bed and drift off in a faint cloud of fragrance. Goodnight mommy. Goodnight daddy. Perhaps tonight we’ll meet again in my dreams.