My Mother’s Closet

My mother’s  closet has only been hers.

When my parents bought this old farmhouse 50 years ago, it had one closet — a tiny one, at that.

While we kids put up a rope swing, my father put in closets.

Putting up the rope swing
putting in closets

Bi-fold doors must have been in then, because that’s what he installed — in his closet, my mother’s closet, my sister’s closet, and my oldest brother’s closet. The rest of us didn’t get closets; we had cardboard wardrobes.

I stood outside my mother’s closet the other day, hesitating to open the door. It has to be done — the cleaning of it, I mean. She’s been gone over a year and a half. My son is staying in that room. And he sure could use a closet.

But I stood there, not wanting to look again at what’s inside.

The brown wool plaid skirt. The green skirt with Greek meander border. The dress she wore at my wedding.

The ruffled blouses that she wore to dress up.

The sweaters.

The housecoats, even.

They’re housecoats, for crying out loud.

But I can picture her standing in the kitchen wearing them, making our lunches for school.

A woman I know lost her house in a fire recently.

Is that how you want to deal with your mother’s things? a voice whispered in my heart. I knew it wasn’t God, because He didn’t burn my friend’s house down. He doesn’t threaten to burn houses down. I saw, however, in my mind’s eye, my fingers being forcibly pried off the things I’m holding onto.

Is that how I want to deal with my mother’s things? No. Absolutely not.

But they must be dealt with.

Garbage? No. That’s wasteful. My mother was never wasteful.

A yard sale? No — I don’t think I could bear watching people paw through her things.

Donate to the church’s rummage sale? No — same reason.

I think I need to box it all up and take it to a donation point in another city. She would want some good to come of it all.

Then, I’ll have to look at an empty closet.

And mourn a little, allowing the closet’s history to move just a wee bit distant into the past.

Before my son moves his stuff in and the closet has its second occupant.


10 thoughts on “My Mother’s Closet

  1. Awww 😦 ❤ I have no recall of what I did with any of my mom's clothes, except that one red housedress she had never worn. When it came to my cousin's father's/my uncle-like-a-father's closet that I accompanied her in purging, I came away with the 2-season woolen red-and-black checkered hat we always saw sitting jauntily askew on his head as he whistled his way home from work. It bore his scent, and she kept something else, insisting I take the hat. It's in a bag up on the shelf in my closet, these 24 years later. It helped a bit — the two of us tackling the heartbreaking chore, i mean, and the hat. My thoughts are with you.

    1. You inspired me to ask a friend to help. I tend to be a little too independent, but I think sometimes we need that other person to get a job like this done.

      1. Too independent — I hear that. But it’s one of the hardest jobs on earth.

  2. I can relate, it has been 2 years since my mother died and my parents’ closet still sits full of clothes. Everything else at their condo has been gone through. Even if we’re not personally attached to the clothes, like you said, they bring back a flood of memories.

    Part of it is like you said, where to donate. In the rural area where my parents lived, there are not the wide range of options I have here in the city, where I could arrange for a donation online. But I’m headed back there next week, and I’m going to try to get those clothes donated this time! Good luck with your closet cleaning.

    1. Thanks, Joy. I asked a friend yesterday (after writing this post) to help me with the job. I think we’ll box things up and send them to a nearby city with one of my children where there are a lot more options.

      Good luck to you, too, with your closet cleaning!

  3. My mother still has a couple of things my grandmother wore – put away so she can, on occasion, see them, touch them, and remember. Hugs and much love at this tough time.

    1. Early on I had taken a scarf home because it smelled like my mother, and I could pull it out of my drawer and just hold it to my face. A few small items should suffice for that — but what to do with the rest?

      Thanks for your kind words.

  4. Sally, what lovely words. I understand. There were some items that I could not and would not sell, or just ‘give away’ as I sorted the items that were important to my Rob. Like his golf clubs. They had to go to someone who knew him and loved him. Rob never golfed, he saw no point in hitting a small ball into the hole on a distant green. Then his Mom retired and starting golfing. She bought him his set of clubs, and that changed his entire perspective on the game!! From then on, he and his Mom golfed almost every course in BC together. After Rob’s beloved Mom died in 2002, Rob golfed only one more game. His Mom was his best friend and he loved her fiercely. That one game brought back so many memories, and made the loss so real, he never golfed again. No, those clubs could not be sold. I put out the offer to those who loved Rob. One dear friend took them for his grandsons. He offered to give me money for the clubs and the tears just welled up in my eyes! Ah! The ache! No!! I would not take money for those clubs!! Just let them be used by those who knew Rob and loved him. Interesting… I just realized that the one game my Rob played after his Mom died, was with the friend who took the clubs for his Grandsons!
    A Perfect Fit.

    1. What a lovely story, Lorne! It sounds like you really did find the right home for the golf clubs!

      My sister and I had started going through my mother’s closet once, but there were too many memories — and we lapsed into storytelling and remembering, both probably important at the time. Now I hope we can find good homes for those special things, and a good place to donate the rest.

Comments are closed.