When A Gift is More Than You Expect


Box of Guilt

My mother is going through a bit of nesting since my father’s recent passing. She has begun working her way through 50 years of belongings and realizing she probably doesn’t need them all, and who better to give these priceless family relics (dust collectors) to then her daughters.

I live twelve hours away so I only inherit items when I drive in, well at least that was the way it had been. The last drive to NJ netted me a bag of clothes, a broken jewelry box filled with random out of date costume jewelry items, binoculars, dog tags (which mean a lot), a beautiful Irish ring, necklace, and earring set my father gave her, and a large ships wheel that hung in our basement TV room for as long as I can remember. I declined many items saying, “No” to the shoes, suspenders, brand new socks, pictures that I had mailed to them, ties, golf books, and other odds and ends.

I get why my mom is purging her home, looking for new homes for many items. She has time on her hands, and as she has told me, “She wants people to enjoy her things while she is alive, not when she is dead.”

Death does that to people.

Some individuals want to hang onto every memory, in hopes of keeping the loved one close to them, while others give away as much as they can realizing no item will bring back the person. I am trying to be understanding, I mean what am I gonna do with my father’s pajama bottoms but I didn’t have the heart to squelch my mother’s zest to pass along the blue and green plaid jammies.

The last trip I drove away with my car packed full of kids, luggage, and my father’s presence. BUT then my mother called me last week to tell me she was mailing out a pair of crystal Lennox candlesticks she had gotten at her bridal shower, 50 years earlier. My husband and I had just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary and apparently this means crystal in the world of old school gifting. I bought him a bluetooth Bose stereo and he got me an outdoor table heater for our screened porch because I’m always cold. Clearly we don’t prescribe to the traditional gifting requirements.

I sighed, half tuning out her long explanation of who got her the candlesticks, and where they were kept for the last five decades in her house. All I could think was, “great more shit to put in my house.” To be honest I was a bit annoyed.

When my box of guilt arrived I was barely motivated to even open it, knowing what they were I wasn’t too excited to rip into crystal candlesticks. See I’m not really a candlestick kinda girl, I don’t know too many people who are anymore. Candlesticks are old fashioned, and unless we have a power outage and all my flashlights are dead I will never use them. Also, I just inherited a pair of candlesticks from my great Aunt Joan who passed away and I found a place for those, so how many fucking pairs of candlesticks does a person need?

Reluctantly I ripped into the box, fighting past the tape that my mother encased the package in. I mean how much god damn tape is necessary? (the answer is a lot). My mother missed her calling, she really shoulda worked at the UPS store cause no one was breaking into this box. After working up a sweat and almost shearing off a part of my hand when I cut through the five layers of packing tape I opened the box up and was immediately hit with the smell of age. My cold heart softened just a bit as I pulled the faded gold and cream striped Lennox box from the packaging. I was no longer a 40 year old woman standing in my kitchen, but a child in my parents home. I remember seeing this box in their hutch, and it smelled of my youth. My mother didn’t mail me guilt in a box, but memories of a time long gone.

I can’t wait to mail the box of guilt to my daughter in 50 years and know she will think the same as me, great another fucking thing to put in my house, but hopefully she too will soften thinking of a time long ago when she was a child, her grandparents lived at the beach and all the wonderful trips back East we had.


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