Confession: Why She Stole Her Mother’s Things

Confession: Why She Stole Her Mother’s Things

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Her mother shared many things, but this daughter wanted more. When her mom refused to comply with her demands the daughter took what she wanted after her mother was dead! Is she a thief for stealing bits and pieces of her mother’s life?

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Like thieves, we were going through her intimate items, keeping what we thought should be rescued and letting the rest go. Hold on to the gold and silver jewelry. Toss the old hair rollers.

The thief in me doesn’t want the outfits she wore to my and my siblings’ weddings. Instead, I take the wooden powder box, also a present from my father on Parris Island. As a child, I sat at the foot of her bed and watched her powder-puff her face. The puff is gone, but the box retains its distinctive fragrance.

Her pink glass bud vase will sit on my kitchen counter holding a single fresh blossom every day. I can nod to it as I toast my mother in one of the crystal patterned stemware glasses that she brought to her lips when sipping Manhattans. Accomplices in crime, Ellen and I pull out desk drawers, open cabinets, and reach into closet shelves, conducting a raid on her two-bedroom home.

The treasures before me include surprises, like a lock of hair from my first haircut; my daughter’s laminated poem to her grandmother; the saved cards and notes from friends and family, including a love note to Dad in a Father’s Day card she sent him. Ah, love notes.
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We’d had a small argument, my mother and I, over her decision to destroy the correspondence between her and my father during World War II when he served in the South Pacific. They wrote to each other daily for three years, without missing a day. I once asked my mother, “Where are your letters, yours and Dad’s?”

“Oh, I destroyed them,” she said as she casually poured herself a cup of tea. “How could you do that?” I asked. “I would have loved to have had the sense of what you and Dad were like in your 20s, during a world war. There was heritage in those letters, and you destroyed them?”

My mother looked at me directly and unapologetically said, “They were not your letters. They were mine. I decided that they were for me alone, no one else, so I destroyed them.” Gone! Just like that! What was in them? I wondered. Probably something romantic that would pale in comparison to today’s standards of sexiness. She shouldn’t have done what she did.

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And yet, as I rifle through her clothes, books, papers, photos, the many possessions of a long life, I can see her point. She had a right to keep something of herself from the rest of us. Even though I wish she hadn’t, she possessed and protected her very private feelings in her own inner safe. Take everything else, she said in effect, but not those.

This is why writing in journals or keeping any documentation is a bad idea if you’re a private person. Keep your secrets in your head if you don’t want anyone to know! That being said I think it would have been nice to share these with her daughter, kind of selfish of her mom to withhold them.

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