Monday, January 29, 2007


My father and his bride stopped by the Billy pad on an extended road trip. They carried with them boxes of Things. Things, like my dad's Depression-era toy collection. Like my mother's hats, shoes, purses. I was encouraged to paw through the boxes and choose what Things I want to keep.

Dad and the bride are starting a new life together, one that involves years of travel, so they are shedding excess weight. I picture them moving from offspring to offspring, sloughing off heavy layers of memory, leaving the glistening shells in our hands.

They don't need any of it anymore. Lightened, nearly naked, they will lift up and out of our world.

I dug through the box of my mother's things. I chose one hat, one evening bag. As I plunged deeper, stranger things emerged. This is what I kept:

- Her wallet, from when we lived in London. It contains her Tube pass, other ID. A tiny notebook full of her wobbly handwriting. Notes for stories or poems. Ragged narratives of her brain's increasingly convoluted journeys.
- Her eyeglass case.
- The screws from when she broke her ankle. She had them framed after they were removed. Mom had an odd sense of humor.
- A tiny pair of moccasins. When my mother was born, her feet were too small for shoes, so the neighboring tribe -- or as Dad puts it, "the Indians" -- made these for her.
- Wrapped in tissue in two boxes: Her bridal veil, the bride and groom from the wedding cake, the marzipan roses from the wedding cake. This last astonishes me. I never knew she kept any of these things, and I have no idea how, in the chaos of our house, she was able to preserve them so perfectly.

The last thing I pulled out of the depths of the box was a bundle wrapped in plastic. Inside, a hairbrush, a mouth guard, and several vials labeled with my mother's name.

I held up one of the vials. There was a substance in it. It had separated. Dark red, nearly black, at the bottom. Whitish and almost solid - like fat - in the middle. Yellowish and liquid at the top.

"Dad," I said, hesitating, not sure I wanted to know the answer, "Is this...blood?"

"Oh, yeah," said Dad, "For a DNA test. Turned out they couldn't use the blood, though. The hair from the hairbrush did the trick."

Dad is interested in genealogy, so I understood the impulse.

But I can't forget about the blood. About my Dad and his bride driving across the country with vials of my mother's blood rolling around in the car.

I wonder, if I sprinkle three drops on a handkerchief, will they protect me, like the goose girl?

Or would she haunt me, instead?


Suzanne said...

How could it be anything but the former?

Beautiful post, Chems.

Anonymous said...

You made good choices, CB, sifting through the pieces of her.

Chemical Billy said...

Suzanne, even if she haunted me, it wouldn't be so bad.

Thanks, Jason, I think so.