The Lilith Blog 1 of 2

August 29, 2013 by

A Blue Slip and a Bag of Letters

medium_19705415There are two new things of relevance. First is a blue slip, belonging to my grandmother, which I unearthed from a bag of other things of hers in a closet. (Also in the bag: letters and cards I sent her, a sweater of hers which used to be mine.) I kept the slip, and threw away everything else. The slip is narrow and stiff, and even though I aspire to be the kind of person who’s daring enough to wear it as a skirt, I never will. It’s strange that I’m keeping it, the memories that it carries are the least pungent.

The second thing is a set of wooden bookends in the shape of ducks. Mallards, I think, but really, I don’t know ducks. My uncle sent them to me after I replied yes to his email: “Your aunt and I are doing some cleaning and we found these bookends. I bought them for your mother years ago at Johnson’s Bookstore. Now that you have your own place, would you want them?”

I remember these bookends from our house- heavy, but oddly slippery on the bottom. They probably can’t be trusted to support too many books. They’re kitschy. When I said yes to them, I was thinking about my grandmother telling me that one day, when I had a house, I could put all the antiques she collected and would leave me in it. I couldn’t imagine owning a house and filling it with so many things that were so beautiful and so cumbersome. But these are just bookends.

The bookstore where my uncle bought them isn’t in Springfield anymore. My grandmother and I used to walk there, to the area of downtown where there was a mall with department stores that all smelled of the same perfume. On one floor of the bookstore, there were long cases of porcelain dolls, I used to go and stare at them. In another part, there were acres of used books. I didn’t appreciate the importance of those then. 

So I said yes, and now something of my mother’s is in my house in Brooklyn. Who knows if they’ll stay there or not; one of my missions in life is remain as portable as possible, so I tend to shed unnecessary objects. But saying yes to them felt like something important, I said yes to them because I couldn’t do what I needed to do, which was ask my uncle questions about my mother. It would have been simple enough to say yes, I would like the bookends, please, and tell me the story behind them, and also, what else do you know about her?

When I think about asking my questions, I feel self conscious, suddenly. Now, in my thirties, there are things I want to know? Why now? Why after all this time, when there’s this divide, this rift, geographically and emotionally, between me and everyone related to my mother? Why not before, when it was easy? (Before what? Was it ever easy?) By saying yes to these weird, clunky bookends, I was trying to get out of asking questions. It’s as though I think I can learn backwards, or learn without, or just somehow know. Like if I put my hands on them, I’ll understand, and not have to do something uncomfortable or awkward or painful to someone else.

I’m not clairvoyant, unfortunately, so I still have to ask the questions. I sent some emails this week, one to a cousin, another to someone who knew my mother in high school. No specifics, just, can I ask you some questions? Would that be okay?


photo credit: Today is a good day via photopin cc