Sat08302014

The memory keeper: Haugh About That?

“Oh, no. This has all got to go!”

While attempting some spring cleaning a few months back, I came to the frightening realization that I was actually turning into my mother – a hoarder. Every cabinet, drawer and closet was overstuffed with items that had outlived their usefulness. Living in one place for 30 years can do that.

I adored my mother and normally would be proud to be just like her, but not in this circumstance. My ability to throw things away couldn’t be as weak as hers. After clearing 52 years out of my childhood home to prepare it for market, I vowed I’d never do that to my children.

Scattered without any rhyme or reason on the refrigerator, pictures of my children as angel-faced babies now overlapped with photos of them as young adults in bright costumes and thickly painted faces. They smiled back at me. In the upper-right-hand corner perched Christmas pictures dating back 10 years, and lining the bottom, four graduations intertwined with family parties.

Standing back, I inhaled our family’s history and breathed in the joy. But I was on a mission to purge and slowly began to unpeel the memories.

“Sorry kids,” I mumbled. “But I don’t want you to have to do this later.”

An hour passed and my task was complete. Our chronicled days were organized and neatly stored away. A blank refrigerator door stared back as perfect as the moment it was installed.

“Wow, I forgot how pretty this maple panel was,” I said, rubbing my hand over the soft, rich grain of wood. “I should have done this long ago.”

For the next couple of days, every time I walked into the kitchen I had the sick feeling that my children had gone missing. Reaching in to grab the milk, I was sure I’d find their sweet faces on the carton.

Then, it occurred to me that while the refrigerator may have housed life-sustaining nutrients, it was the outside that offered a perfectly balanced menu of love, happiness and family triumph.

It’s not like I don’t have oodles of photographs all over my house and walls. After all, my children are my finest artwork, so why was I feeling such a loss over a few removed? Perhaps because it was as if an entire family history had been wiped clean. Like it never existed in the first place. And to know anything about the Madden-Haughs, all one ever had to do was look at my refrigerator.

“That does it! I’m putting them all back,” I thought.

With deliberation and determination, out came the tape and up went the smudged, somewhat tattered and sticky pictures, plus a few new ones, along with a promise to keep.

My refrigerator door will remain the pictorial legacy I plan to leave behind for my unborn grandchildren. What better way for them to understand their lineage than through those happy faces filled with love and mutual respect?

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