Fourteen years ago today, my mother spent her last full day on earth. She had no idea she would be leaving us. Her departure was a surprise to all of us. I’ve often wondered if she might have spent that day differently had she known. I suspect not.
My mother was all about form. The laundry was folded and put away. The only dirty piece in her entire home was the dishrag at the kitchen sink. The refrigerator was spotless. Their was no clutter, no book out of place. Her drawers were organized. Her journal was up to date. Her sharpened pencils were neatly lined up beside her calendar and notebook where she recorded every day’s temperature. This notebook was on the table by her sofa with a highlighted TV Guide. Everything in it’s place.
Fifteen minutes before she exited, on the afternoon of Halloween, 1998, she was in the garage cleaning oil spots off the floor. [Who does that??] It was as if she was ready and prepared for her outward life to be exposed by the family and to the family–every nook and cranny looking its best.
I am not like my mother. My life is a cluttered mess of projects scattered in every room of the house. There are piles on top of piles of books and papers and research and photos and lessons and notebooks and files. Every few months I have to clear the path to my computer so I don’t trip over something in the dark.
My quilt room is buried in fabric and more than 80 unfinished quilt projects. (I did count them once after coming home from a quilter friend’s funeral.) Fabric and quilts billow over into the 2 guest rooms and when the boys aren’t here, my cutting mats, rulers and fabric piles cover the ping pong table and hang from the exercise bike. Last summer Aaron only asked me for one thing for his birthday: “Mom, would you please take your fabric off the ping pong table so we can use it again?” It took me several hours, but because I love him, I reluctantly relocated my piles under the ping pong table, hoping no one would notice them there.
Last week for Adam’s homecoming and family gathering, I cleared Christmas gifts off the dining room table. From last Christmas, not for this Christmas.
Sometimes I wonder why living this way doesn’t bother me like it bothered my mother. It never has. Hundreds of times as I was growing up I heard my mother ask, “How can you sleep with your closet doors open?” When the piles in my room got too deep, I put a blanket over them. Just like that they disappeared!
I suppose part of my problem is that piles don’t bother me. If I were to die tomorrow, I would not be embarrassed in the least bit. I will probably hover and smile as someone else uncovers all of the treasures and projects I’ve left behind. They probably won’t know what to do with all of them, but they will know that I’ve lived well and loved my life and I was busy doing the things I’ve loved.
If this were my last day on earth, would I try to straighten things up a bit? Heaven’s no! But I might wander through our home, room by room, to say goodbye to the piles I’ve so lovingly created, before making my way to greet my mother, who is probably turning over in her grave at the thought of it.