We spent this holiday weekend in Georgia packing up the contents of my father-in-law’s house. He has recently married a very nice woman who is not any sort of packrat, and he seems to be relieved to move in to her house and just hand over everything from the old house to us. There is a lot of stuff there. I mean a LOT. So taking charge of it all has meant selling our old couch to make room for a very, very old antique side chair and end table, and moving around cabinets in our kitchen to make space for the oak secretary his grandfather built and the glass display cabinet his mother kept her china in, and totally rearranging our former office to make it a real guest bedroom, complete with his great-grandparents iron bed, and working out where to put the old treadle sewing machine. And there are lots of tubs and boxes of little things that need to find some place to be. It’s all very cool stuff, but gosh there’s so much of it! And we didn’t take 1/4 of what was in the house. My FIL will be having an auction to pare down the rest, which is mostly Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. That was my deceased MIL’s favorite holiday, and the acres of lights and animatronic critters that inhabited her lawn and got her on the front page of the local paper every year will be up for sale. I like to think of her Christmas spirit showing up in little bits on everyone’s lawn in town. Everybody get’s a piece of the Gingerbread House.
I just realized that I think of that as her house, always her house, though it was their house together for 47 years–since they were teenagers. She just had such a big personality that he faded into the background somehow, and was mown under by her preferences, her wants, her need for more and more things to fill the holes in her life. And now he’s out front with his new wife and new life, lighter and happier than I have ever, ever known him to be. So, we’ll help button up the past, and take responsibility for as much of the stuff as we can reasonably cram into our own house, and help to set him free of it. Everyone gets to move on to the next leg of their journey. And we get to give new love to the antiques, and set a few of them free ourselves.