And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And the daylight feels like it’s a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong
Walk on, walk on
What you’ve got they can’t steal it
No they can’t even feel it
Walk on walk on
Stay safe tonight
Mama, can we clean this out? I’ll help you. It’ll be fun!
I pulled the handle. Papers spilled as the heavy drawer slowly opened –church bulletins, family photos, old grocery lists-
a waterfall of paper cascading to the floor.
Oh no, oh no! Put that back… I might need it!
A grocery list?
I might need it!
I put it back. Valued keepsakes; dumpster-bound discards; my mother’s home was an archeological dig waiting to happen.
There was even artwork under the beds.
Please don’t get me wrong. My mother was not a hoarder; she was a survivor; a Depression survivor. She saw potential in everything.
Can’t we throw this out?
But she didn’t live there anymore.
She lived in a nursing home.
And it was time to tackle 40 years of accumulated treasures.
With every decision
(would cousin Peter like this?)
(could the thrift shop sell this?)
(do you want this?)
I was haunted.
Our mother –
who relished this home
and cherished these belongings–
would not approve.
Even though she said
it’s time to sell the house;
she didn’t mean it.
She didn’t want this.
She lived only a few miles away,
And there we were;
shelf by shelf; drawer by drawer; closet by closet;
demolishing her life.
As we begin,
the neighbors accost prospective buyers, proclaiming the house should not be sold. Our mother would be happily at home if it weren’t for her evil daughters— from the east– who put her away.
A neighbor races to the nursing home
They are removing your dining room furniture. You said I could have it. I’ll give you a good price!
My mother is hysterical.
The nurses are aghast.
Nothing surprises us.
We clean the garage. Donning hazard masks, we load huge dumpsters– expired medicine; exploded tomato cans; a wealth of evidence that dementia made its appearance a long time ago.
A neighbor storms into the backyard. Jabbing her finger in the air
You are making a big mistake. We can take care of her. She‘s just fine!
We sift sort discard
The neighbors’ tirades could not begin to match the torrent of emotions inside those walls.
The most mundane objects–
a chipped cookie jar;
battered manicure set;
spark a firestorm of memories.
But where’s Uncle Charlie’s diamond?
Grandma’s wedding band?
We will never know.
But in truth–
they can have the diamond;
we have the cookie jar.
As each room is emptied, my apprehension grows;
I have dreaded this moment for years.
In a few days,
my sister and I will walk out of this house
for the last time;
down the steps, down the red brick path;
no turning back.
I am not sure I can do it.
We lift pull carry
small glass bottles of water
hidden in a bottom drawer.
But not just any water—this is holy water– blessed at our parish church the night before Easter.
Our family always attended The Easter Vigil; my parents enthusiastically participating in the church’s dramatic rituals as it prepared its new year;
its new beginning.
The blessing of water was one of those rituals;
apparently my mother had saved water every year–
water with special powers–
if you believe in such things.
My sister and I look at each other, amused;
What on earth do we do with holy water?
Bad karma! Let’s decide later.
the house is empty; not a single object remains;
except the water.
The closing is this afternoon;
our purses sit by the door;
Let’s sprinkle the water in the garden!
My sister walks to a rose bush
I sent this to daddy when he learned about the cancer.
We toss water on the roses and say our parents’ names.
In an instant
the moment I have dreaded for years
We look at each other
they would approve!
we sprinkle water throughout the garden
calling our ancestors’ names:
our grandparents and their parents;
our aunts; our uncles;
the water is almost gone.
We walk to the tree at the corner
This is for
and their children
and their children’s children.
And for us–
This is for us.
I had anticipated heartache; sorrow; remorse.
We danced down the red brick path and got in the car. I had planned this part. The daughter of a record producer, I knew I would need a soundtrack.
I had already installed U-2’s latest disc. I hit track 4. We drove away as Bono sang the words that had carried me to this moment; the words I needed to hear
Leave it behind
You’ve got to leave it behind
All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you steal
All this you can leave behind…
Both sets of lyrics from Walk On, from the album All That You Can’t Leave Behind by U2, music and lyrics by Adam Clayton, Larry Mullin, Dave Evans, Paul David Hewson, copyright Polygram International Music Publishing, BV
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