In preparation for our move in three weeks, I am spending a lot of time among the bins in our basement. There is the holiday-decorations bin, the dress-up-clothes-for-the-grandkids bin, the baby-book-and-photo-album bin for each of our kids, the partyware bin and the don’t-know-where-else-to-put-this-stuff bin.
With each move I have tried to pare down the bins. I really got brave this time, realizing there might not be a lot more moves. I threw away stuff that I couldn’t before. My high school and college diplomas; gone. A pair of my baby shoes that my mom saved; gone. Stacks of Mother’s Day cards my kids made for me in grade school; gone.
With each of these goodbyes, I kept saying to myself it’s time to let go of the past and really cherish what is in my life now; the family, the friends, and the love that surrounds me each day. The past was a path to where I am now. I want to really appreciate the steps now.
But there was one bin that gave me great pause. It was the one labeled Mom and Dad. In it was what is left of the lives of two people who mean the world to me. My dad’s tan fedora hat that he wore every day to work and to church. My mom’s reading glasses and a charm bracelet with a typed list of each charm and what it symbolized. There was a mailbox charm and in it was a weathered, tiny piece of paper you had to pry out with a straight pin. On it in very faded blue pen were the words, “To Flo, I love you. Bill.” It represented the trips my mom made to the mailbox to retrieve the letters my dad sent while in the South Pacific during WWII.
There were the pictures of my mom when she was in her early twenties all decked out in a beautiful dress, wide brim hat, and high heels with my dapper dad next to her in his suit and tie. They were in downtown Chicago where they used to go dancing a lot. And pictures of my mom and her girlfriends lined up like the Rockettes in cute rompers enjoying a warm summer day.
I also found the wallet my mom used to carry around in her last years, to all her doctor appts with her insurance cards and credit cards. Tucked away behind the cards was a picture of my mom and the four of us kids with my dad in a cap and gown. It was 1962 at his graduation from Northwestern University. Getting a college degree was important to my dad so he persevered through years of night school on top of working and providing for us four. Behind that photo was another. It was my mom and the four of us many years later at my dad’s gravesite.
A whole lifetime in one bin.
The Mom-and-Dad bin is teaching me a lot. As I slowly take my time sorting through photos and trying on an old fedora and a tarnished charm bracelet, God is gently reminding me that our life here is twofold. Memories and symbols of the things we did and the things we had will one day settle in a bin in a basement. But the love and the goodness we put into the world can never be contained in a bin.
It lives on.
The Mom-and-Dad bin is going with us to the new house. I can’t quite toss it all yet. But I’m getting closer.