I started cleaning out the clothes in my mother's bedroom yesterday.
It was something I'd been a bit hesitant to do at first -- rummage through her things and presume to evaluate them -- but I finally just walked in the room, took a deep breath and started sorting.
I made a pile for the church yard sale, a pile to give to my aunt in the nursing home and a pile to throw away. I wound up with two big Rubbermaid bins of yard sale items, and two heavy trash bags of rags -- underwear, ratty old shirts that had been hanging in the closet for God knows how long, even a pair of my dad's pajamas.
Some of the drawer finds were inexplicable, like a Beanie Baby frog -- where the heck did that come from? -- and closet shoeboxes filled with mildewy 30-year-old financial records. Some were amusing, like Mom's huge, Elton-esque eyeglasses from the 70's. I rediscovered old stamped-embroidery linens that Mom thought were tacky but I think are rather charming. I found some of my clothes that had somehow wound up in Mom's closet, that I'd forgotten about -- a fussy brocaded Mandarin collar jacket, a sweater, a flannel shirt (I may have never gotten the toaster oven, but I do own one regulation flannel shirt).
There is so much that needs to be done in that room -- the drawers all need to be aired and re-lined; the closet needs some heavy-duty cleaning; a wonky bi-fold door needs fixing; and frankly I didn't have the gumption yesterday to tackle the jumbled mysteries of the non-clothing dresser drawers. But at least I've made a start. It feels lighter in there.
But it's funny, the fleeting and irrational feelings of naughtiness and even disloyalty that I feel at times. Take the bathroom. (Please.) Keeping in mind that this is Cold Comfort Cottage, and that the only redecoration that makes any real economic sense would be at the hands of a bulldozer operator...I changed things in the bathroom. I found some pretty celery green bathroom accessories at our local Cheap Crap of Dubious Origin store, and brought out some celery and aubergine bathroom towels, and thought, "This looks better." But I think my mother would be appalled. She wanted everything beige. She disliked more than one houseplant per room; I'm getting more houseplants. (Sorry, Mom.) And then I think, "Is it healthy to be doing this so soon after Mom died? Shouldn't I be letting things be for awhile?"
And I'm starting to think about...well, inviting people over. My mother was always very socially anxious -- I remember back to the day of my high school graduation "party," which despite my objections was only for family members, and even something like that was enough to send Mom to bed with a migraine, during the party. So we hardly ever had people over here, and when we did my mother would be stressing so intensely that that would stress me, and I couldn't enjoy myself. Yesterday, as I was fussing around the house, I started musing, "I could have someone over for coffee. I could throw a party. I could invite the youth group up here. I could have a holiday open house for people who don't have anywhere to go for the holidays. I could have a weekend guest." And I can get things fixed now on my own, without having to pass through a maternal rhetorical gauntlet: "Of all the things that need to be done around here, why would you do that first? And who would you call? And how do you know they'd do a good job?..." that usually resulted in nothing getting done.
After about seven years of house-sharing with a parent, and a previous life that included renting experiences with housemates, it's very odd to suddenly be able to once again do anything I want, in my own space. It feels very Pippi Longstocking.
And, finally...I'm in the process of setting up a home altar. This is something that my mother would have found absolutely freaky-deaky. But I've moodled around with the concept for a long time, and my friends who do have such devotional areas in their home (shout-out to Charlotte, *Christopher and C, and among others) have inspired me. As you can see from the photo below, it is definitely...ahem...a work in progress. The empty picture frame will at some point contain the Sinai Christ Pantocrator, my very favorite icon of all, and there will be a Christus Rex from El Salvador behind it, and my buddy Mata H's "holding cross," and some other items meaningful to me. It seems, though, that on Holy Saturday this rather anticipatory arrangement might be just about right.