Curating the museum of stuff.

Aprons that stayed in the closet.

I am delving back into the journals that were the basis for my new book, AKissB4UGo. Many pages never made it into the published book but still have lots of meaning for me. If you don’t mind, I’ll share them with you over the next few weeks.

Patti left behind a lot of possessions. Years later I’m still going through them. At first I was wracked with guilt at the thought of throwing away anything that she’d ever touched. I just put it back in the box to wait until my heart had hardened a little more.

Some of the things became easier to part with. Patti was a huge collector of newspaper clippings and postcards and had big piles of letters and notes and shopping lists and I went through them over time, sifting them into smaller and smaller groups and filling garbage bags with stuff that meant nothing to me anymore. But there are also many things that I found it hard to part with. Patti’s apron collection is one of them. She loved aprons and pick them up and thrift stores and flea markets and had dozens more than she could ever wear. I still wear them when I do the washing up for cooking a tomato sauce but there’s only so many aprons a man needs.

Of course I think about Jack when I’m going through this process. What will he want of his mother’s? Will he have some future wife who will share Patti’s love for these things? How awful if I’ve thrown away every trace of her obsessions.

I tried carefully through the things that Patty left behind and trying to be a good curator. Of course these things are just things and I don’t really need to be reminded of Patti by an apron or a sale circular or even a love letter. But things also carry the traces of people and one has to handle them carefully and not be overwhelmed by the need to bulldoze the past away, as if clearing my closets of her presence will somehow eliminate the last vestiges of pain.

I don’t know if all those thoughts are evident in this spread from my journal. Probably not. And it was hard to do justice to the beautiful designs of her aprons in a wearily done watercolor, so this spread, like many others, remained in my journal and didn’t make it into the final version of the book.

17 thoughts on “Curating the museum of stuff.”

  1. My book is on its way from Amazon. I am too touched to write, as my son has traveled with you down this same rocky path over the past two and one half years. He is finally finding some real freedom and light in a new relationship. You two are so similar in nature and artistic ability. It is rewarding to see you both plod determinedly through this time and find a degree of peace and happiness on the other end. God bless you, even if you aren’t sure He exists!


  2. Thank you for sharing this. We all go through this process at one time or another. Your thoughts on this subject have both comforted me and given me some new ideas on how to archive my stash of memories.


  3. When I open my medicine cabinet in the downstairs bathroom I see my late mothers eye glasses, and upstairs in a drawer is a small plastic folder containing her drivers license and some business cards. I have my fathers army medal from the first WW in the desk in the living room. They’ve been gone since 1972 and 1984. I guess my kids will have to decide what to so with them and other stuff I’ve kept after I go.


  4. I love that you will be sharing those special pages with us. The trailer for your book was so very touching; my eyes are still a bit drippy…I’m really looking forward to reading “A Kiss Before You Go”.


  5. When my daughter died nearly four years ago-she was 24-she left among other things a stash of bikinis! I haven’t kept her bikini collection but I have held on to her sunglassess and earrings and bags. I still love to put something on of hers. I used to think she adorned me when she was alive-she was a beautiful girl/young woman- just by standing next to me! And when I don something of hers she still does.


  6. I’m sorry this didn’t make it into the book, Danny – I can so relate to the heartache associated with trying to be a good curator. For me, it’s deciding what to do with my mother’s things (and all of the things that she kept and couldn’t throw out or give away too). She passed away three years ago and I still have a large pile of memories and associations that I’m not ready to sort through. I think the aprons and the letters are some of the hardest things to part with. The good news is that there are no rules when it comes to coping with grief. You are a remarkable human being and I thank you for your words, your humour and your encouragement.


  7. I think I still have everything I’ve ever owned. A lot of the things mean something to me for sentimental reasons, a few because they’re valuable in some way, some because they’re unique. I’ve told my kids that I’ll try to start editing my stuff soon so they won’t have to deal with so much. And I’ll offer each thing (or group of things) to the family before I dispose of them. But what will be left – well, I told them I don’t expect them to love or want the things I do, but before they sell or toss each item, just look at it and realize that I loved it in some way. That will be enough for me.


  8. When my stepmom died, I was given the task of making a memory quilt for each of my 7 siblings using favorite pieces of her clothing-the things we couldn’t bare to give away, but couldn’t really use ourselves. The process has been an amazing journey for me and a special gift for my siblings. Might the aprons you won’t be able to use be made into a quilt for Jack?
    Again, thank you for sharing with us, Danny. Your illustrations say so much.


  9. I admire your courage in sharing something so heart-wrenching and personal.
    Sometimes one needs to give oneself permission to hang on to the ephemera of life, even if they provoke a wistful smile. If that fails, there is always Neruda’s “Ode to things”.


  10. Why not have all those pretty aprons made into a patchwork for a kitchen curtain/bedspread/cushions/mad trousers etc.? The possibilities are endless. I have done this with favourite clothes from the past so that the memories stay intact but the clutter is gone. Let us know if you do this!


  11. Danny, what a treasure these pages are for you. Somehow the act of drawing them during this fresh awful grief is different than if you drew the aprons ten years from now. They are imbued with your thoughts and feelings of this time. My mom died over a year ago, leaving me with grief and a mountain of possessions. Small treasures of emotional value worked their way to the top, odd little gifts. A nutmeg grinder, my first baby shoes with my name and date on the bottom, beat-up measuring spoons. On a plane ride home I drew a page of these from memory and that page is special to me now. I have a friend who is an award-winning water colorist, and she made beautiful renderings of her mothers costume jewelry and other personal items. Now I understand why she did it.

    My mom was a creative person, too. She once made a robe for a teddy bear out of the remains of her robe that EMTs had torn in saving her life a decade ago to give her more time with us. In that creative spirit I have kept hankies and ties (she still had Dad’s stuff!) and bathing suits (no bikinis here!) and other things I don’t need with making of quilts, blankets, sachets, etc in mind. Time will heal this need to hang on to their things, but I believe paying homage to the things your loved one enjoyed is part of the grieving process.

    I’m waiting to see your book under my Christmas tree. I think I better ask for a box of Kleenex, too. Wait a minute, I do have all those hankies…

    Blessings to you and Jack.


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