Precious memories, and a few suprises

Alabama Living Magazine
Illustration by Dennis Auth

Some folks are collectors.

My mother and father were accumulators.

Daddy was 93 when he claimed his 50-yard-line seat in that great Jordan-Hare Stadium in the sky. Mama was 98 when she joined him. That gave them a lot of time to collect. And they did.

Once, and only once, did Daddy let me organize and cull his collection. My wife helped.

In his storage shed, we found jars in which he kept balls of twine, seed catalogs, and insecticide long since banned by the EPA. We also found a bunch of empty half-pint whiskey bottles, which were full when he went hunting on a cold winter morning.

As we carted off “stuff” to the dump, I heard Daddy mourn “my treasures, my treasures.”

He never let us do a clean-out again. Instead, he saved what he could and told us, with unmasked glee, that we would have to deal with it after he was gone.

Only we didn’t. We kept it where it was because Mama wanted it that way.

As the years passed, she added to the collection.

What a collection it was.

Daddy’s mother loved stamps, and as her children traveled the world defeating our nation’s enemies and occupying their countries, they sent her letters – stamped. Daddy inherited that passion, so the stamps and envelopes and albums were crammed into a filing cabinet for me to sort through.

Like her mother before her, Mama kept a diary – which was mostly a daily account of what they ate, the weather, and who visited. Thrown in were bits of local gossip, and an occasional reference to family doings, good and not-so-good.

I found things I could not explain: two Japanese Pesos, currency Japan printed for use in the occupied Philippines. Daddy served in Europe. Who gave him these?

A miniature photo of a young man in what appears to be a Confederate uniform. He is holding a wicked looking knife. Who was he?

Mama’s senior high picture. Why had I never seen it before? Cute as a button, she was. I know why Daddy cut her out of the herd. Not that I was surprised. She was Miss Grove Hill of 1934. I know – I found the sash she wore.

Then there was the letter Mama wrote to Daddy just after she learned that the attack on Pearl Harbor had changed everything.

And tax returns. The accountant told me to keep 7 years, so into the big black trash bags went a decade or more of cancelled checks, receipts, and “thank you for your donation” notes, records of two lives well lived.

Among the things they kept was my grandmother’s 1953 application to begin collecting Social Security. The government sent her $26 a month. Not much, but with chickens, a garden in the back yard, family and friends nearby, she got along fine on that.

The books my folks accumulated for no purpose other than they enjoyed them were donated to the public library.

I also found a list directing me to give such-and-such to so-and-so, which I dutifully did.

And I paid off Mama’s pledge to their church.

Many precious memories. And even some surprises.ν


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