WANDA MORROW CLEVENGER
BEYOND THE PERIMETERS
Fifteen days after Mom’s passing, a total solar eclipse was set to move across the length of the United States—the first time in 38 years. Every few days after the funeral we girls gathered to clear out Mom’s house. There was gentle joking and eye-rolls and the unanimous conclusion that Mom was indeed a hoarder, an uber-organized hoarder; and we girls were destined to touch every item she ever owned (darn near) and sort into save, sell and donate piles. This would prove a herculean endeavor.
We girls knew vintage from kitsch from crap. We knew real from costume. And in compliance with The Will knew we’d have to “share and share alike.” I was still on a year’s prescription of Effexor for PTSD and more chill than a popsicle. And growing up the youngest of four girls had a prolonged, intimate relationship with hand-me-downs. Sharing—no biggie. Not that I put much stock in it, but maybe it was fate that things wound around in this way. For me anyway. That’s the other thing about death, it makes you stop short. It makes you think beyond the perimeters.
It wasn’t hard to figure what keepsakes we girls gravitated towards—a lipstick tube, perfume bottle, jewelry, piece of porcelain, vintage kitchenware, ancient aprons, Christmas decorations, childhood toys. As for me, it was rooting out a garter belt missing one hosiery clip, variegated crocheted doilies (a hobby we shared), the small electric iron with hotplate, the days-of-the-week embroidered dishtowels in practically brand new condition that date back to her wedding.
Then there were the curiosities. The wood bats under the bed to banish intruders—none of which intruded even once. The library of medical books (I always secretly wondered how she knew some tidbit or two about every conceivable ailment). The inventory lists (a preoccupation we also shared, though in my defense our insurance agent requested them). The repetitive phone number lists tucked into almost every cranny. The sheer number of shoes and purses.
By the end of the first week of clearing I had declared out loud I would never ‘do this’ to my boys and that I didn’t think I’d ever go shopping again. Granted this was just the overwhelm of an overwhelming point-in-time talking. Kohl’s really had little to fear.
I’m not complaining (I had cleaned out an abandoned house we bought to resale years before—far worse than Mom’s in every way). I mean, this was Mom’s stuff. Stuff from my childhood. Stuff from her lifetime. Stuff that makes you simultaneously laugh and moan.
The eclipse crossed over Carlinville, Illinois, somewhere between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. We stopped working to go outside. The sky over Mom’s house went a couple of degrees darker for a few minutes. A cricket chirped. Locust stridulated. I like celestial things—meteor storms, planets aligning, perigee moons. All that bigger-than-life phenomenon. I was in awe. Then as quick as it all had come, it was done. Like nothing out of the ordinary had even happened.
About the Author
Wanda Morrow Clevenger is a former Carlinville, IL, native. Her flash fiction “Roses and Peppermint Candy” won the 2014 Winter Short Story Contest in The Holiday Cafe. Her poem “corsage” won the 2014 Black Diamond Award for Excellence of Craft in The Midnight on the Stroll Poetry Contest. Her nonfiction “Big Love” was nominated for 2016 Best of the Net by Red Fez literary journal.