Mom & Me

Columnist Carrie Yamato and her mother, Thelma. (Courtesy photo)

Family members warned me moving back to my childhood home after my parents passed away would be difficult.

“It’s not going to be the same,” my brother cautioned. “You’ll expect to see mom there, but she won’t be, and you’re going to miss her more.”

I understood his point. But just as much as I needed a place to stay during the four-month renovation of my house, I needed to spend time at the place that held the most memories and love from my parents, before my brothers and I sell it this summer.

Even if it meant twice the amount of packing and unpacking of my family’s belongings and making a deal with my brothers that I would handle all the aspects of selling the house since I was living there, I still wanted to do it.

The move was typical of our other moves. We underestimated how much stuff we had; procrastinated packing way too long; and despite our best efforts, misplaced a lot of things.

But, unlike our other moves, this wasn’t a start to a new beginning. It was a move to recapture memories I felt were slipping away and to rediscover new ones.

From the moment we unpacked our boxes and suitcases, everything just felt … right.

Where I’d typically be exhausted and short-tempered from pulling an all-night packing session and finishing just before the demo crew arrived, I was surprisingly energized and calm (OK, I did have a few moments when I couldn’t hook up the Wi-Fi and lost the garage door opener).

In a fury, I reorganized the laundry room, kitchen cabinets, got my daughter set up in her bedroom and bathroom and hung up my clothes next to my mom’s.

It was like all the things my mom asked me to do when I was younger, but of course never did, I was doing now. I was even following her nighttime kitchen-cleaning routine.

I never sweep the kitchen floor every night at my house. But there I was with broom in hand night-after-night. My kitchen plants are lucky if they get watered once a week, but in her kitchen, I’m pulling out dead leaves, looking under the sink for African Violet plant food and filling up the watering can.

I wasn’t the only one channeling my mom.

“Let’s watch Jeopardy,” my 13-year-old daughter asked during dinner. “Grandma always let me watch TV while we ate. Remember?”

Yes. I’m beginning to remember a lot of things now.

I remember exactly when we bought her favorite Eileen Fisher outfit that still hangs in the same place in her closet. I remember how beautiful she looked when she sat at her dressing table and put makeup on. I remember how she refused to move my baby picture off her dresser even though it was so unflattering, and I remember the conversation we had about the last purchase she made.

“I don’t know why I got this sculpture,” she told me as we sat in her family room. “It was expensive, and I usually don’t buy things like this. But when I saw it at the store, I kept thinking about it, so I decided to get it. It just makes me happy.”

My brother was right about the house not feeling the same. But it’s OK. As we wrap up our first month here, I realize that even with the endless decluttering, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. It just makes me happy.


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