December 12, 2013

WILLIAMS: The things left behind


---- — I’m sorting Mom’s stuff and dolls stare at me sadly from every corner of every room. I’d never have nerve enough to try to count them but if I guessed at least 1,000, I don’t think I’d be far off.

There are ceramic dolls and china dolls and mop dolls and straw dolls. There are dolls dressed in the costumes of their native country. Black dolls and white dolls and Japanese dolls. There are dancing dolls and singing dolls and football player dolls. There are collections within the larger collection — a whole circus of clown dolls, enough Victorian ladies to fill a ballroom, a kindergarten class of pretty little girls performing various activities.

Every doll has its name written on the bottom along with a date and where it came from (“Adele – from Louise, Christmas, 1996”).

I have never liked dolls though I never complained, even when they threatened to take over the house, because Mom loved them so. Now, she’s gone and I’m determined to be ruthless. I’ve decided I’ll keep one curio cabinet full of dolls in her honor. But I will pick the ones I like best and place perhaps five on each shelf, not the 25 per shelf the cabinet currently contains.

But I sense my mother’s spirit still standing guard over her dolls. I pick one up and determine to put it in the “to go” box and I seem to hear a heavenly gasp — “oh, no, you wouldn’t toss Evangeline out in the cold, cruel world!”

I actually find myself debating with her. “Mom, wouldn’t it be better for them to go to someone who will love them as much as you did?”

This is what happens when you are alone in a house going through the treasures of a loved one who has recently died. These dolls still seem to be imbued with her being. I pick up a boy doll. His name is Nathan. He has the date 5/15/1974 (her birthday). My son gave it to her because he thought she needed more boys. He was 7 years old then. I sigh and put it back on the shelf. Of course, Nathan will have to stay.

I finally got rid of the world’s ugliest fireplace. Even Mom admitted that it was ugly but my Grandma bought it for her as a surprise (and my Grandma wasn’t known for her generosity) so to my mother, it had tremendous sentimental value. I have no such feelings. It is simply a relief to have it gone and it went to a lady who has no heat so she’ll have at least one warm refuge in her house. I think Mom would be okay with that.

And the piano is leaving too. Mom played by ear and I loved to listen to her, especially when she’d break into a rollicking Twelfth Street Rag or Beer Barrel Polka, but she would rarely play in front of anyone. She sent me for lessons when I was young but the piano teacher sent me home with a note that said — “I rarely confess that a student is so musically talentless, I can teach them nothing, but this little girl is one. Please don’t send her back.”

Her clothes are all gone to Goodwill, even the fur coats that she hasn’t had on for 40 years. As the dementia took over, she fixated on those coats. When she didn’t think this was her home and, in an effort to convince her, I’d say, “Mom, you live here — look around — all your stuff is here,” the first thing she’d mention was those coats. Now, I hope some little tiny woman wears them and enjoys them.

Along with the dolls and the teapots and the jewelry and.....

Vicki Williams is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached through the newspaper at