The Sandwich Generation

30 Jun

That is what we are called “the sandwich generation” . Although technically, I am quickly becoming a disassembled sandwich. I think the sandwich refers more to parents with young kids and old parents and having to caretake at both ends.  For example, I have friends that are a few years younger than I, but they have a 3 year old and the grandmother is in her late 70’s.

Anyway…….I have an 85 year old mother who has collected anything and everything and rarely tossed an item out.  Perhaps it is having lived with her that makes me a neat freak at times.  My father used to say he would have liked to have been able to walk through a room without fear of knocking things over.  I feel very much the same. I am at her home in Texas going through some of the clutter, trying to deal with all of it now while she is in good health.

She was born in 1924, which means her childhood was spent during the Depression.  When she talks about growing up, there is very little discussion about what she didn’t have.  Their family always had a garden, and the garden always meant plenty of food to eat.  In the fall they canned their summer bounty. They kept a few chickens and an occasional goat.  She recalls hobos coming by their house, asking for food. Her mother never turned away anyone, giving them an egg sandwich and coffee and milk in a milk bottle they were given to keep to turn in for a few pennies.  Her parents were immigrants from Bulgaria, and her father was an inspector for the railroad.  Yet, I wonder if this period of history, isn’t what inspired her to treasure all that she has.  My father never threw away a single screw or nail either. Jars and coffee cans full of bits and pieces of things were everywhere.

After my father passed away, she stayed in her home for a few years before moving to a smaller home. She cleaned out a lot then, but believe me when I say a monumental task lies before me.  There are good things amongst the bad hidden in anonymous boxes in the garage, and attic and closets and a storage unit.  It is the wonder of what could rest inside the cardboard veil that prods me to continue to search.  I am not sure if I am channeling Indiana Jones but I am definitely on a quest.  Today the treasures included about 20 empty gray Poupon mustard jars ( yes, really) along with various other empty jars. In her defense, she is an artist and I believe she favored small jars for mixing colors ………..lets just go with that.  But, also I found fabulous sets of sheets my Mennonite grandmother and aunts (obviously my dad’s side) embroidered with great time and detail with beautiful colors and patterns.  A friend who is also gifted in needlework suggested we donate them to a museum.  It is a great idea and I will add that to my list of things to do. (Thanks – really needed another thing)  We also unearthed a forgotten cameo with the letter of description from my great great grandmother about receiving the cameo during the Civil War from her husband, and how the last time she saw him  and about waiting for him to return.  He never did return and was last seen in a battle in a hand to hand fight.  And, speaking of history, a copy of Time Magazine  – Eisenhower’s death.

I am not sure what I will do with the boxes and boxes of hand stitched linens and handkerchiefs.  Suggestions? I feel fortunate that I can spend this time with my mother.  This is the longest time I have been home since I was 17.  I like going through things now, while she can relate stories to me.  We found an old metal compact bag she used to carry. She showed me the box and all its secret compartments for lipstick, for powder, for cigarettes, and for mad money.  Mad money was what she always called money that a girl should always carry, just in case she got mad on a date!  That advice came in handy a couple of times in college……….but that is a story for another day!

I will continue to sort and document and purge and donate.  I can see now this is going to be a very lengthy process.


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