My mom passed away last year.
She was a wonderful woman with a wonderful soul, 61 inches of pure gold.
Simply the best.
It's taken a while, but my brother, Bruce, my sister, Mary and I are finally going through her house, getting ready to pass it on to another generation.
There are memories, smiles, laughs, groans and tears in every drawer, every cabinet, every chest.
Our mom lived there for more than 60 years. And she didn't like to throw things away.
She was a hoarder. A very organized hoarder, mind you, because her home was always spotless. But she always found a place to store everything.
Like junk mail from 1988. Unopened. Coupons from Hardee's that expired 20 years ago. Old postcards. Calendars from the 1970s. An upholstery bill for $29.59 --- from 1965.
We found congratulatory notes to my parents about my birth --- in 1959. We found my mom and dad's wedding announcement --- from 1947.
Books from the early 1900s. Bibles from earlier than that.
An autographed picture of Stan Musial. No, really, Stan The Man. I think I'll keep that.
The silver bowl my dad received for finishing second in the Missouri State Amateur --- the U.S. Open of Missouri golf --- in 1955. And the letter from Jefferson City Country Club from June of that year, as he finished second to another Jefferson Citian, Jim Tom Blair.
In part, the letter said:
"When our members, Jim Tom Blair and Ed Loeffler, teed off last Saturday morning in Kansas City to decide the Missouri Amateur Championship, it was the first time in the 48-year history of the Missouri Golf Association that both finalists were from the same club.
"In recognition of this outstanding accomplishment and to honor these two fine young men who have brought state and national attention to our Capital City and our club, the Jefferson City Country Club will host a dinner this Friday evening. Mayor Arthur W. Ellis and other city officials will be invited to attend the dinner.
"Cost is $3.50. The dinner is open to both men and women."
Candles, oh my, candles. By the dozens and dozens and dozens, some burned down to a half-inch long. Well, you never know when you might need a half-inch candle.
But sometimes, not throwing away things is a good thing.
Like my grade cards from elementary school and seeing a teacher's comment like: "Tom's behavior is getting much better."
Ouch. I never knew I was a problem.
But there was some good from my elementary speech therapist. Growing up, I couldn't pronounce my R's properly: "Tom's really working hard and his pronunciation is getting much better."
From what I've been told, I was a wascally wabbit.
I found a paper airplane with stars all over it, because I got a 100 percent for my spelling tests in second grade --- for the entire school year. Impressive.
Obviously, I have more typos now than I did then.
I found something I wrote when I was 7, my brother was 14, my sister 12. Perhaps I was meant to be a writer. Here it is, typos included:
"If I could do Magic I wood turn my brother into a three year old. I'd turn my back yard to a football feld. I would demolish all the schools. I'd turn my sister into a pig."
I got an A+ and with good reason. I think I was a better writer then.
The "art" for this "story" was a drawing of a pig, about the size of two peas, inside of a fence. Sorry, sister.
And it wasn't just my grade cards, but those of my brother and sister, as well. Not just us, but grade cards for my mom and dad. And not just from college, but from high school IN THE 1930'S.
Mom got A's in history, English and typing in 1936, by the way.
What do you throw away?
Record albums from the 1960's, like Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Dozens of albums, of all varieties, from a Roaring Twenties tribute to Beethoven. Old comic books like Archie, Donald Duck and Casper the Ghost. Dozens of them.
Newspapers recounting Richard Nixon's resignation, JFK's assassination, the end of World War II, the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Twine, knick-knacks, napkins from wedding receptions, church bulletins, every greeting and Christmas card she ever received, homemade cards from us and her grand-kids, every insurance and bank document she ever received, boxes of cancelled checks, my first driver's license, letters I sent home from college.
This is a letter from 1978, my sophomore year at MU:
"Your guess is as good as mine for what I should do. You say I don't have to rush into any decision, but that's not true. It's getting to the point that I need to start going in a certain direction.
"I've been thinking about broadcast journalism, but am unsure about that. I think about it every night before I go to sleep, but it seems like I'm just going in circles. It's really been bothering me for the last few weeks, because I know that this is the time that I need to make up my mind."
Hopefully, I made the right decision.
Pictures, pictures, pictures. Family pictures, pet pictures, vacation pictures, pictures of people we don't know, pictures of people we don't like, pictures of people who died more than 50 years ago, pictures of our dad from World War II.
Baby pictures, Christmas pictures, silly pictures, wonderful pictures, awful pictures, pictures of me when I had hair, so many pictures you can't keep, so many pictures you don't want to throw away.
In the end, that's all we have.