Gems My Mom Saved

When I was a child, I lost my mom.

No need for sympathy. She didn't die. She just disappeared behind a mountain of stuff she had piled in a back bedroom.

I know that soundsd like a lame joke, but it isn’t exactly made up. My mother was a packrat - a surprisingly clean and organized packrat. but a packrat nonetheless. And her packrattiness was so bad, a person could go missing – or hide a fugitive – or start a secret colony – beneath any number of stuff-mountains she erected throughout her house.

Sadly, in 2007 we really did lose her when she passed away. My dad grieved so hard he didn’t want anything in their house to be touched, so we continued to navigate through and around (and over) her assortment of stuff until three years of accumulated dust finally got the best of him. That was when my sister and I began sorting.

We started spending a few hours each Wednesday with Dad, popping open box after box after unbelievable box and pulling out tens of thousands of objects. Some were delightful. Some were distrubing. We cleared one bedroom that was packed from floor to ceiling, wall to wall with boxes, and then we attacked some other rooms that were packed full of furnishings and all manner of weirdness and awe, and then we started on the jampacked sixteen-by-twelve-foot shed. It took us six years to clear the house of her belongings, and to this day we continue to sort through papers she saved.

But this isn’t a story about the insanity of hoarding (although hoarding is a pretty messed up practice). This isn’t a slam against my mother, either. The message I want to share is that during the six+ years that we sorted my mother’s little, big, and all-sizes-in-between treasures, we sometimes found them perplexing and unsettling, but we also found they have value.

Her countless gems triggered my dad’s memories and produced stories from his youth that we had never heard before. They brought back memories that had lain dormant within us for decades. They produced laughter and tears, and they sent two tiny undead chickens on an epic adventure across the country and abroad. (And yes, we have photographic evidence of their escapades.)

From the beautiful to the bizarre, Mom’s stuff has been an endless source of entertainment. It has spoken to us as only our mother could and brought her closer to us than ever. As I share this story, I hope you will find our journey through her belongings to be as entertaining as we have. I hope our discoveries will jog sweet and humorous memories about your past and your loved ones. And above all, I hope you benefit from the eccentricity and the affection that was Geneva.