Of Madness And Memories

Dearest Rachel –

In literature, the color yellow seems to be associated very closely with madness. There’s The King in Yellow referenced by Lovecraft, the story of “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Gilman, and so forth. I think that, in some way, it’s why Ellen chose it to serve as the color of what we intended to be our guest room, a place for her to stay when she would come over.

Yellow can also be associated with faded papers, old documents showing their age. The sort of thing that, upon reading through it, leaves you wondering what was this about again?

And so we come to one of the last untouched frontiers of this house, the guestroom, the one we simply referred to as ‘the yellow room.’ The final repository of most of the stuff that we brought back from your folks place after so many trips, both when Jo was still alive, and after her passing. We literally had nowhere else to go with this stuff, so it all wound up in here. And now it falls to me and Jan to curate this stuff, and wonder what to do with other peoples memories.

These are the things that I have so much less attachment to personally, yet, because they were yours at one point, I am loathe to say to simply say “yeah, sure, get rid of it.” The diktat I am striving to live by is, “am I going to use it? No? Then let it go.” It’s a simple rule, but not an easy one.

The thing is, we took so much effort to bring all the stuff back from Macomb. The thought that we wasted our time, and the space in the car, to do so… bothers me. And that’s not taking into account the obvious fact that so much time and effort went into creating or assembling the things that we find here.

Take, for instance, this green box. We already have a smaller one in the office.

Same pattern and everything.

And inside is an enormous collection of various recipes.

Now, Jan tells me that cookbooks are the sort of thing that people snap up at secondhand shops like Goodwill. But this isn’t a cookbook per se: it’s just a collection of papers and pamphlets. A number of them seem to be part of the same series, but it still isn’t the same as an actual cookbook. And so, I can’t feasibly donate then… but I can’t bring myself to throw them out either. Too much work went into compiling all this stuff, and while you never marked any of this up – why, you may not even have been aware of this boxful – there might be some appeal to these recipes to someone.

These are the sort of decisions that drive me and Jan crazy, because, while I try to keep up with her, in some cases we just can’t come to an agreement about what to do with all this.

For the time being, the new box rests on the top of the shelf in the office, where so many others of your recipes have already been stored.

Admittedly, it’s only for the moment, but it occurs to me that were I willing and able to transcribe these recipes and set them up on the Internet, I wonder if they would get more traffic than these letters do. It’s a tempting thought, but I don’t know if I’m that much of a sucker for Internet karma to go and do that.

Then again, having them in digital format would allow me to throw out the hardcopies permanently; I imagine that would please Jan, if only because we can arrive at such an ideal compromise: she gets the house that much more cleaned out, and I still keep the recipes, while essentially distributing them to anyone who wants them at the same time. Win-win-win, wouldn’t you say?

And that’s just the beginning of the documents we’re finding in here. And of course, it’s not all documents, but some shed light on certain other mysteries. Jan found a couple of boxes with this monogram on them:

Me being the Internet denizen I am, my immediate thought was ‘role-playing game,’ which I knew couldn’t be right, but I had no idea what the alternative was.
…until I found this cache of paperwork – I can’t tell if it was schoolwork or calculations for his actual work – from your mom’s first husband, Robert P. Gecsy. Question answered.

For what it’s worth, we’re not keeping either the paperwork or the leather box. His calculations mean nothing to me, and the toiletries in the leather box are rusted and some are even stuck to the leather. Either way, I can’t see either of us using any of his old stuff. I mean, all of it’s older than we are.

And then, there’s the toys. So much of which was all just cheap jack stuff that you gathered from garage sales and wherever. Not to dismiss all the work you put into gathering it, but again, the criteria is are we going to use it? And you know the answer to that.

But we can still use it one more time, to cart these old items off.

On the other hand, not everything is being dragged out simply to be dropped off at Goodwill. You might remember how Daniel would occasionally ask about Little Ghost Laban, and wonder what happened to him since we came back from our Baltic cruise back in 2001. I’ve been going through all the vacation footage, and every time our stateroom was on the side facing the port, we would film where our cabin was, since it was identified by Laban (which we picked up in Stockholm – because where else would we find out anything about him?) and Daniel’s other plush toys he’d brought with him. It was cute to located our home away from home by those little touched, but in the years since coming to our real home, he’d gone well and truly missing.

Most of the time, he didn’t cross any of our minds, but every so often, Daniel would think of him and ask about him. Our usual response was to shrug and say that he was in the house somewhere, and it would turn up someday. Well, for what it’s worth, today was someday.

But so many of the toys we hardly have any use for, so they went into the frogs mouth, and off they hopped.

It was only after we emptied this box that I realized how you’d listed everything that had been in it. And I feel like, once again, I have to apologize to you for getting rid of so much.

We haven’t yet gone so far as to get rid of your old doll house. I know full well you’d never have let us do so if you were still here. As it is, I can hardly bear to do it. But there’s that relentless question, running around in my head until it drives me mad, asking are we going to use this? And of course we aren’t.

But there’s all these little bits and pieces that come with it, and it all has to be bundled together.
I can’t even tell what actually goes with it, and what are other types of toys that we need to deal with separately.

So far, Jan has boxed up whatever she thinks she can identify as belonging with the doll house. Hopefully, whoever winds up with it will get the entire collection as intended. But it’s certainly quite the process.

And then, of course, there is the artwork. You made a point of bringing home so much of what your parents created, and now I’m not sure what to do with it.

We still have yet to go through all these pictures.
Or these, for that matter.
At the very least, we have agreed to keep this collage of news clippings and sketches pertaining to your parents’ house. To be honest, the house that you considered an older brother (because it was every bit as much your parents’ baby as you were) probably deserves a letter of its own, but that would be for another time.
These pictures, on the other hand, are definitely not their sort of thing. Some other little girl will find pleasure in them, I’m sure, just as you did once upon a time. They don’t belong here anymore.
And then there’s this weaving from your mom, entitled “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and I simply referred to as the Three Maidens. Jan wasn’t particularly impressed, but I remembered it hanging above your bed in Macomb, and I can’t see getting rid of it.

There are other works of art here, but they will have to wait for another time (if for no other reason than the fact they haven’t been unpacked yet). And worse yet, I don’t know the whole story on many of them.

And the same thing goes for all the photographs.

And there are so many photographs. So, so many photographs.

Now, your parents wrote on the back of a lot of these as to what they were and when they were taken. But in so many cases, the pictures are of people I don’t know; they were of your extended family, or friends of yours or your folks. They no longer have any connection to me, if they ever did. So even with the descriptions, I don’t really see a point in keeping many of them.

The trouble is that, there are a great deal in which you happen to be in – you are their only child, after all. By extension, Daniel and I appear in a number of them as well. And our pictures (and yours) are scattered throughout these vast quantities of photos, leaving me to page through them until my eyes go glassy. I’m in no state to take on that project just yet.

Even less so, as I dig out the last of the envelopes of photos from one of the boxes, and find this book. I don’t know if it belonged to your folks, or if they gifted it to us at some point. If the former, you must’ve brought it home for our own sake.

But considering the subject matter, it feels like just one more twist of the knife.

Still, there’s always the consolation of progress made:

Here’s where we were at the beginning of the day…
…and here’s where we are now.

We’re not quite ready for Ellen to come over and stay overnight (just to give one example), but give us Thursday, and we might just.

Until then (and beyond), I hope you’ll understand.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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