After sharing my apron drawing recently, I came upon the journal entry I wrote when I first encountered the aprons two years ago, a pain-filled essay that never made it into my book, A Kiss B4UGo.
” I was aiming to empty out a bunch of bags of stuff that have been sitting on our window seat ever since Patti and Donna filled them during their organizational sprees in early March. One of the bags was full of aprons, the bulk of Patti’s collection.
There is something very Patti about aprons. They are girly, though I occasionally had to wear one like some comic strip husband, some Dagwood. They were nostalgic objects, found in flea markets and thrift stores, but for her they were all functional and practical; because she had to cook (and do most everything) sitting down in her wheelchair, they protected her clothes from splashes of grease and spaghetti sauce. Most of them were handmade and whimsical, sewn with novelty prints of roosters or cows and embellished with frills and appliqués.
I went through the bags, finding one of her many purses filled with breath mints and tissues and little notebooks. There was a bag full of wool and half knitted things. There were lots of gift items, things she had gleaned at sales, full of potential and reminding her of someone. But they sat with the tags still on, and I had no idea who she planned to give them to.
I had intended to be so productive, finally tackling all of the piles of stuff I had been avoiding for the last five months, and suddenly, I was broken down and sobbing. My mind was empty of words but overwhelmed with feelings. Who would ever need all these aprons? Who would ever get these presents? How could I even throw away this box of breath mints?
I recategorized the things in the bags, then put most of them back. Then, suddenly furious, I ripped down the biggest box in the pantry, the one labeled ‘wheelchair parts’. All these broken brakes and axles and inflated cushions filed with punctures, the supplies I needed to constantly jury-rig repairs on her chairs, no longer necessary and taking up space. Cursing to myself, I emptied the box into a garbage bag, then stopped.
Do these things matter too? Will I one day be filled with regret that I threw them away? Should they all go back on the shelf? No, I resolved, I need to throw them away — but I’ll keep one brake mechanism as a reminder of the rest.
I had made no real progress against the thoughts that haunt me late at night, the seemingly overwhelming task of getting on with things by getting rid of things. Instead, Jack and I stripped the slipcovers off the couch and took them to the laundromat, then emptied the fridge and scrubbed its shelves. A minor step against the incursion of chaos, a battle won, the war still to be waged.”
Update: After reading various people’s comments on the above, I realize that I wasn’t clear enough about the origin of my words. This is a quote from my journal of almost two years ago, when Patti’s loss was still very fresh, too fresh to be doing the sort of purging I was considering then.
But it gets easier. Now, almost three years after her death, Patti’s absence has sufficiently mellowed that I can look at her things and see them more objectively, still bathed in her light but less suffused with guilt and confusion. I still have so much of her in my home, but I am now in the process of being more selective about it all, of choosing the most precious objects and appreciating their power and beauty rather than being afraid of it. I am not the sort to repurpose her possessions into quilts and the like, but I l have discovered that having fewer mementos make each one more precious, more jewel-like.
And I still have, and probably always will, every one of Patti’s aprons.