We are moving my Mother again today. At 92 years old she needs more care. I am sad as her current one bedroom apartment in a Senior Living Community was just so perfect for her when we moved her two years ago. After a stroke last month she requires more care and attention so has to move to a much smaller studio which is closer to the nurse’s station. I am feeling sentimental and want to share some of the highlights of my Mother’s wonderful long life.
A Love for Traditional Design
Since I was a little girl, my Mother and I toured all the mansions up and down the East Coast. Visiting Williamsburg many times, Sturbridge Village, Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village outside of Detroit, Designer Show homes, open houses and museums all contributed to my love of furniture and decor. Growing up in Philadelphia there was a plethora of historic homes to visit. We would often take a Saturday and drive to Delaware to see the DuPont home of Winterthur. We toured the White House in Washington DC when I was only 9 years old. Our mutual love of home decor is the reason I am an Interior Designer today. I excelled in my history classes whenever there was mention of interior furnishings and I love studying sets of TV shows and period movies especially. She gave me my love for traditional design and antiques.
More about my Mother
She has always lived in the prettiest of homes. We have had a few painted for keepsakes and these will definitely hang on her walls in the new apartment. Unfortunately we did not take many interior photos. Mother grew up in Center City Philadelphia in a two bedroom apartment home which today has been renovated and is even more beautiful. We lived about 7 miles away and would visit my grandparents several times a week.
We lived outside Philadelphia for 22 years near Swarthmore College where my Mother was a librarian. I was in college when they moved to the Poconos where they lived for 10 years. My father died suddenly at age 58 and when my Mother was 62 she sold their “Gentleman’s Farm”. It was too much maintenance although she loved driving the tractor to cut the grass.
Attending my wedding in Seattle in ’86, she bought a house the following week. She bought a home large enough for my sister and her two young children to live with her. Mother worked at Sears (now the Starbucks headquarters) and my sister attended the Art Institute.
We have always been amazed that she never even had a coffee with another man even though we encouraged her to date. She worked part time until she was 80 at the YMCA. We will definitely be hanging these paintings of the homes in the new apartment.
Too Much Stuff!
I’m sad because all her lovely traditional furniture will no longer fit.
I think my sister can fit the curio in her home. There are not enough walls for her large botanical prints or the Robert Furber monthly botanical prints that have graced a room in every one of her homes over the years.
Three Moves in Three Years
I know many of my readers have experienced similar “trauma” in downsizing their parents’ homes. And it is quite stressful. During the move two years ago I tried to fit a few small chests of drawers and tables into my home so I would not have to give them away. For sentimental reasons, I kept the Hekman glass and brass coffee table that is not really my style, but does fit in my Family room. I stripped and refinished the old dining table and reupholstered the chairs for my breakfast area. I actually love them!
Today I think the 18th Century High Boy will fit in my guest bedroom and there is a small marble dining table that I may use for a vanity in my Master Bedroom.
Down Sizing is a Good Thing…Keep Believing
She is not truly aware of what the move means, but she will not have a kitchen anymore. No need as she isn’t capable of making a pot of coffee and the toast keeps burning so it is not safe. All her meals will be served to her in a communal dining room. We already gave away 2 sets of China and now there is no need for the sterling flatware or the Limoges that we enjoyed at the family dinners for so long.
She had a love of travel and traveled to Europe several times becoming a Francophile and collecting and loving all things French. My takeaway is to realize that the treasured items have provided much joy over the years.
And now it is time to let them go and appreciate our memories. I vow not to collect too much stuff. This cartoon I saw recently about sums up the state of our possessions!
Her most important possession by far is Daisy.
It is with deep sadness that these cherished accumulations cannot be kept forever. The grandchildren do not care for the “old-fashioned” style or are too transient or live in small apartments too.
But now I am so happy my niece wants to take the dainty pink flowered china!
Slowly I will unpack the framed pictures knowing they will not all fit. Many of the paintings were purchased in Paris when my Mother and I visited my friends. The Pessemiers are former Seattlelites who lived in Paris for a decade and now reside in Italy. They write a very interesting weekly column named ArtNotes about their painting experiences which I find fascinating.
As I am writing this I realize my Mother’s little studio is much more organized than my own house which is now bursting with her stuff!
Things don’t Matter…except to Me!
And it is bittersweet that I don’t even think my Mom realizes that she has left so much behind in her move. The four poster bed she has had since marrying 72 years ago has a new home with a neighbor who happily appreciates it. We were able to keep the large stained glass window which adds a little color and style to the plain windows in her new “Living Room”.
I don’t think she cares all that much. She just wants to spend time with those of us she knows. Or at least recognizes…most of the time.
Reminiscing with Photos
Her favorite pastime is to look through old photographs. Many of them are not in albums or organized but those are the ones she seems to enjoy the most because she can read the notes on the reverse side. The following photograph is with her dog Pudgy and all her wedding gifts displayed.
I’m writing this as a cathartic way to document some of my memories. I am cherishing each day and am grateful for the time I still have with my Mother. Most important to me is that she still knows who I am and is happy to see me. Occasionally she calls me Elizabeth! And as I was leaving today, not for the first time, she asked ” Who is your Mother?”
You can see from the photos that she has a light-hearted spirit and is mostly happy with her new surroundings! She has always been a diehard sports fan rooting for her beloved Phillies and Mariners, and Seahawks and Eagles and the Villanova Wildcats (my father’s alma mater). Sadly, it is difficult for her to concentrate on the games just these past few months.
Always ready to dress up for a special occasion, she can be the life of a party especially if there is an opportunity to dance. Oh how she loves to dance!
She can call me any name she wants and as long as she is smiling that is just fine with me! Thanks for reading.