Karen Perry: Cupcake sprinkles, memories tend to collect in the corners
February 24, 2013
While looking through my mother’s spice cabinet to add seasonings to my orzo salad recipe I came upon a childhood memory. I spotted two small bottles of “CakeMate” cupcake sprinkles with an expiration date of 9-24-68. I know for a fact Mom has not made a cupcake in 60 years. At this moment, I realized my trip to Arizona to visit my mother was going to include some major spring-cleaning, purging and a box of extra large garbage bags.The first place we attacked was the sunroom, and after examining the situation I renamed it the “dust broom.” Once we cleaned it up, Mom couldn’t believe all her silk plants turned green again. Our next project will be the garage and I can hardly wait to discover what’s inside all the cabinets and boxes.I wouldn’t consider my mother a hoarder who requires mental treatment. However, I do believe the topic needs to be explored to satisfy my own curiosity. So while enjoying our orzo salad in the refreshed sunroom, I decided to bring up the subject, hoping I wouldn’t hurt her feelings. I started out by asking Mom how many times she has moved in her lifetime. This would require an Excel program to track the frequency. The grand total was 30 times. We concluded a gypsy must be in our family tree. The next obvious question was why “stuff” had never been sorted, tossed or given away during all of her travels. Her answer was simply: “I don’t know, I guess I never thought about it.”We continued the conversation and discovered a much deeper meaning for keeping “stuff” that no longer serves a purpose, or has expired. It has to do with the feeling of “not having enough.”Mother has lived alone for more than five years now and has lost the desire to keep up the house. She tells me nobody comes to visit so she is no longer motivated to maintain the house like she use to. So each day during my stay we select one cupboard or section of the garage and begin the task of sorting “stuff.” Although Mom doesn’t really want to take on this overwhelming job, it has become much easier having a trusted family member coach and assist in deciding what stays and what goes. Sometimes we come upon “stuff” that makes us laugh or cry while other “stuff” just leaves us perplexed and confused. So often family members wait until their loved one has passed away before sorting through all the “stuff.” I would not want to miss the opportunity to share these days together. How would I know the importance or the memories attached to items I might toss without her knowledge? New stories have been told, family histories revealed and Mother and I have grown closer because of “too much stuff.”• Karen Perry is the executive director of The Lodge Assisted Living Facility in Carson City.