Mama never threw out anything. At least not much more than garbage and old coffee grounds.
Now she's going to be 90, she fell and broke her hip and she can't live in the house in Red Oaks anymore. Mama's seen better days and, frankly, so has Red Oaks, which has the misfortune to lie north of Florida Boulevard and east of Eden in my hometown of Baton Rouge.
Week before last, my wife and I made a frenzied trip back South to see Mama in the hospital and take care of a few years' worth of loose ends. All in six days.
Part of the process that will hit almost every middle-aged child of someone in God's good time is disposing of a life -- a life that's over, or a life that's merely transitioning to a phase where your home is no longer your own, and neither are your choices. What you rarely realize until it's slapping you in the face . . . over and over and over again, that is when it's not punching you in the gut . . . is that you're disposing of your own life, too.
YOU, in the course of a week, frantically rummage through your childhood home, through all the stuff that Mama never threw out and, ultimately, through your memories both blessed and cursed. You rummage through your childhood, grabbing the precious things to take home as one grabs what's most precious as they flee a burning house, and you say goodbye.
Goodbye to all your old stuff -- yet again. Goodbye to the home of your childhood. Goodbye to your childhood. I'm home again, but Thomas Wolfe was right, or at least mostly right.
“You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood, back home to romantic love, back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame, back home to exile, to escape to Europe and some foreign land, back home to lyricism, to singing just for singing's sake, back home to aestheticism, to one's youthful idea of 'the artist' and the all-sufficiency of 'art' and 'beauty' and 'love,' back home to the ivory tower, back home to places in the country, to the cottage in Bermude, away from all the strife and conflict of the world, back home to the father you have lost and have been looking for, back home to someone who can help you, save you, ease the burden for you, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time--back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
IT'S JUST as well, I reckon. But just the same, I'll hang on to these relics, second class, of one of my earliest Christmases, 'round about 1962. I'll hang onto Fred and Dino and the Flintstone Flivver. (Ninety-eight cents, cheap!)
It was a yabba dabba doo time. A dabba doo time. It was a gay old time.