Friday, September 10, 2010

things and more things: or what Amelia Earhart has in her pocket

Amelia finds a cigarette lighter and a pack of Lucky Strikes. Also an emergency fund stashed away for safekeeping. She wears a leather jacket, a man's style button down shirt and a pair of trousers. She wants for nothing. That's what it should be in the end, you should be able to let everything go but the bare essentials.

My mother couldn't, didn't, wouldn't and thus we're faced with the debris of a life. In her apartment you find all as it was the day she died. A four bedroom Upper West Side apartment with the walls hung with memories. Here is her dear friend Janice's painting and my aunt's. A startlingly accurate rendering of my sister as a high school student with her hair clipped perfectly in the foyer. Prints by well known artists. Collections of paperweights and antique bottles, Christmas plates, quilts . . .and the most macabre piece that always reminded me my mother performed abortions, a print showing a pregnant woman in a courtyard, next to her a man walking away from her with a giant shears in hand. My mother is everywhere and nowhere, although her ashes sit in the back closet, waiting for us to spread them. She is with her things, it's fitting. But of course, the things are left behind for us to disperse along with her remains.

Why do we collect so much? We come into the world alone and leave alone, yet we cart around so many possessions. They remind us of moments, and I wonder as my mother's memory failed what they evoked? I will never know. There were few things left to say at the end, and if there were, she no longer had the vocabulary to express much but her thanks and her love. Now I am left to interpret the what and the why and the how of her life . . . through the things she left behind when she vanished.


  1. Hmmm, what does she do with those Lucky Strikes? There's some comic possibilities here. So far as I know, there was only one time she tried smoking: in the aftermath of the Friendship Flight, when she was getting some moralistic censure for the Lucky Strikes ad (you know, the one where she says this was the brand carried on the Friendship). As described by Hilton Railey, she stuffed 3 cigarettes in her face and puffed on them in a little fit of rebellion, saying why shouldn't she smoke if she wanted to. Needless to say, she soon turned green around the gills. :D

  2. Not a smoker, but I take a little poetic license. Not a drinker either, and she had good reason for that.

  3. Yes, adult teetotalism is a fairly common response to suffering through a childhood marred by a parent's alcoholism.