The countdown has begun. My husband and I are expecting our first child at the end of the month, but there are still so many things to do!
“What if our son makes beautiful little model airplanes, just like you did. I would like to have seen one or two of them that you made. Are you gonna throw out the ones our son might make too?” I asked as I was sipping yet another water bottle and feet propped on the couch.
My husband paused as he was finishing assembling a stroller in the living room and shrugged. “My Mom threw mine away years ago. They’re just clutter and dust collectors.”
“So we keep just one and dust it, to show him that we value the time and interest he had in putting one together. What if he’s a sketch artist, or a painter? Are you gonna throw away all his art just because they take up space?”
“We can’t possibly keep every single pre-school finger painting, drawing or craft. What if Liam is just like me and keeps everything neat and impeccably organized at all times?” He glanced up at me with a grin during a struggle in operating the car seat that he moved on to after the stroller.
I rolled my eyes.
He chuckled, lined up the car seat and stroller neatly in one corner of the living room and sauntered into what is becoming the nursery, directing his attention toward what he considered a cluttered closet with one of five boxes. I hauled myself off the couch and followed him.
“I can make this really easy for you,” he grinned, but I knew it was a thinly veiled threat. It worked.
“You will NOT throw anything away,” I glared and slowly lowered my pregnant belly to the floor and did exactly what he had been urging me to do for weeks. We have been clearing out a closet to make room for our son’s clothing in what will become the nursery. Four of those five boxes are mine. Why is organizing such an arduous task for me while he delights in it?
“I’m almost positive I put file folders of prior coursework from creative writing classes into most of those boxes,” I said.
“Ok. I’m not asking you to throw all that away. Just re-file it into these empty file boxes, and only you can do that in a way that you will remember where you put what. Remember that our goal here is to simply get everything out of this room,” he said.
I nodded. That didn’t sound as overwhelming. After several minutes of digging in one, sure enough, I found several craft articles on writing, but near the very bottom, sandwiched between two empty three-ring notebooks and other scraps of paper was the pale blue covered Sentimental Journey biography. My Dad wrote the forty-five page piece and named it after that iconic song Grandma loved, performed by Doris Day with the Les Brown Band in 1944. He vividly remembers singing with Grandma.
The project is just for our family and her friends, and he published it himself about ten years ago. What inspired him? The inside front cover gives a clue. “It is my hope that this brief biography will commemorate the many sacrifices she made on our behalf, and enlighten those of future generations regarding the high-quality of at least one of their ancestors.”
Sentimental Journey managed to keep up with me through three moves. I thought I had lost it. I read it once after he first wrote it, and again now. I have spent three days absorbed in it, this time from the perspective of identifying how my family’s faith in God was passed down through three generations. My Grandmother, Doris Lucille Romsdahl Hanson, was born July 11, 1922 and was reasonably healthy until about 1983 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Although she underwent a mastectomy, it was not caught soon enough and spread to her bones. I didn’t spend much time with her one on one because my family and I lived in Des Moines, which is a three and a half hour drive to her home in Bloomington, Minnesota. The trauma of watching her deteriorate during her last few years and the thousands of miles logged on Interstate 35 is what stands out in my mind. She passed away June of 1988. My memories of her are now vague and have faded into images. I suspect that writing about her life was part of Dad’s cathartic process in grieving and letting go.
What prompted my tears through parts of the biography? Maybe it’s the same reason why I get weepy when I listen to my great aunts and uncles tell stories about Grandma during infamous Romsdahl reunions. I was a snotty pre-teen kid when she was alive. I realized that I have felt cheated out of knowing and appreciating her as an adult. Where does this mysterious emotional connection come from? I had to ask Dad how I am like her after re-reading the biography. “I see her quiet, sensitive, compassionate personality in you. She was smarter and more determined than anyone gave her credit for, like you,” he said.
Grandma kept family heirlooms locked away in a cedar chest to be opened only on special occasions with clean hands. Just as Dad recalls the times when he was allowed to view the precious items in his Mother’s sacred chest, perhaps I can create that same experience for my son. Yes, I need to continue the process of unpacking my moving boxes to determine if there’s any special photographs or other such memories that got tossed in with credit card statements or car insurance papers, and transfer my personal heirlooms to my own cedar chest. Then there’s the Doodle Box that Grandma gave me when I was a child. It’s a small plastic mustard yellow box, but as sentimental to me as what I have managed to keep in it, such as important photographs and other memorabilia from vacations and the past. When my children are old enough, I will share my memories.
The DNA threads of Christianity and music from the Romsdahls have woven their way into my genetic tapestry. That is how I am connected to Grandma. Who knows what threads from my husband have found themselves in our son. It’s still a mystery that we are eagerly waiting to unravel.