I am still, from time to time, sorting through an assortment of small containers of stuff that once belonged to my father. He’s been gone for some time now though some days it seems like yesterday. Many months before he died he decided the best way to keep us girls from developing hard feelings amongst ourselves over the dividing of his common tools and trappings—treasures to us once he had gone—was to leave nothing. Each time we visited he would offer the gleanings of this closet or that cupboard.
Soon after his passing my stepmother asked me to clean out his workshop. I knew he’d left behind nothing of monetary value and I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I was simply erasing the presence of one man so another could occupy the space. But I found, among other things, a cigar box with some pencils and a 6” ruler (though a heavy cigarette smoker, he never smoked cigars); a rusty lunch box with a variety of iron-on patches, needles, spools of thread, and buttons; a battered pail holding a half-full grease gun and a huge crescent wrench; a pair of tailoring shears with 10-inch blades; two well-used carpenter aprons, one still with nails and hammer; a cribbage board so old it had taken on the color of the dark wood walls and had matchsticks for pegs; and four small wheels wired together to make the first toy car for an imaginative boy a very long time ago. I loaded the meager collection into the car, drove the four hours home, then carted everything up to the attic where it sits moldering.
Now and then I think of my own mortality and realize I, too, should be downsizing—giving my little treasures to my daughters so they won’t develop hard feelings if one gets something another wanted. On those days I go to the attic and randomly choose a box to sort.
Today I chose a box that had been Dad’s. It’s an old cardboard box not much bigger than a shoebox. The label says it’s a Hoover Dustette, a hand-held vacuum cleaner. In black grease pencil, Dad had written on the top AMMUNITION AND HUNTING MATERIALS. Inside was the usual catchall stuff—a screwdriver, a couple of taillight bulbs, various screws and bolts.
I’ve sorted those and put them in the proper places. Then I cleaned the dust and spiders out of the box. It’s a cute box and I want to keep it. I thought I could use it for make-up but I don’t use much so even if I put all I owned inside it wouldn’t qualify as Ammunition and hunting materials. I think I’ll put in a pair of red spike heels, close the lid, and put it back in the attic. Let my daughters figure that one out. They just might need a chuckle that day.