Mack Williams: Quality family time while going through Doris’ old things

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 2, 2022

The recent one-year anniversary of my 93-year-old mother-in-law Doris’ passing made me also remember the time, several months ago when we (daughter Rachel, son Jeremy, daughter-in-law Rose, and I) got together to go through some of her things.
We had been putting it off for a while due to our individual schedules being in a state of “misalignment.” And even though some of those items were clothes and jewelry of which Doris had not worn for some time; it did seem proper to have waited a while longer for the “warmth of life” to have receded from them even further.
Among the first things found were several women’s turtleneck dickies of different colors. I even wore a men’s turtleneck dickie or two back in the 1970s (men wore anything back then). The turtleneck dickie must have been inspired by desiring a “jacket-over-turtleneck-look” on a slightly warm day!
Seeing those dickies, I think about my first cousin-in-law, “Dickie” Smothers (yes, “that” one). “Bippy” from “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” also comes to mind; but that’s something else entirely (as an aside: I would feel as equally strange saying “Row-Anne & Martin” as I would saying “Row-un County.”
There was a little box of various badges and pins advertising several states and some casinos out West. This brought back memories of Doris and her late husband Hoyt’s Las Vegas trips. She brought me back a piece of petrified wood from Arizona ( not from the Petrified Forest, that’s illegal, but from a gift shop).
We found a little book of wallet-sized photos. Shockingly, there was a picture of me in my “heyday,” which my son Jeremy said looked like old pictures of the lead singer of Procol Harum! And when the light first struck that picture which had been in shadow for some time, it did look “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”
One of Rachel’s dance costumes from age seventeen was deep in Doris’ closet. When Rachel placed it in our self-assigned Goodwill box, I asked if she might want to frame and hang it. She said someone’s daughter could use it; and besides, she has a picture of  herself wearing it.
There was an old emery board, one side red, white, and blue, with the words: “Weldon Duncan for Post Commander, American Legion Post 89.” I kept that as a memento of Weldon, one of my late father-in-law’s American Legion friends who was always nice to me, and ran a TV repair shop. The “business end” is the reverse side; so, if used in a pinch (or “claw”), its “memory side” is safe!
We found a list of Doris’ community accomplishments written in her own hand when her hand was somewhat younger and steadier. We deduced this was done when she was thinking about her obituary. After reading it, Rachel announced: “Well, we almost included everything!”
Doris loved elephants, and I kept one of her elephant pins as a memento.
There were Doris’ fashionable clothes of years ago before the latter “smock years” of her 90s. There were some casual clothes from family lake outings featuring Doris’ special hamburgers and incomparable potato salad.
One roll of thick, aged paper with tattered edges made me almost think of what a Bedouin shepherd boy had accidentally discovered back in 1947, when he hurled a rock into a cave in Qumran near the Dead Sea and heard the sound of a shattering earthen jar. But this “scroll” was definitely not anywhere near 2,000 years old; it was the blueprint of Doris and Hoyt’s house from the 1940s.
Not wanting to hoard, the “dump-able” items were assigned to the landfill, donation-worthy items Goodwill, with a limited number of keepsakes claimed. Anyway, there’s almost limitless space in “the hoarding rooms of memory!”
We all had a certain feeling of catharsis when we were done. This initial “sorting” will be followed by another, later on.

Afterwards, I felt that our time spent there was more than just “going through Doris’ old things;” but it had truly been “quality family time” in every sense of the phrase!

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