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She Broke Up Housekeeping, Or Did She?

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She Broke Up Housekeeping, Or Did She?


Martyn J. Ballestero Sr.

Dedicated to my loving wife, Marcia.

She sat at the table, looking at the china cabinet.  That’s when reality set in.  What was she doing?  Giving away her prize possessions? Why? Thirty-eight years of marriage to a minister had prepared her for many things, but not this.  They had moved seven times; six of those in the first seven years.  But in her heart she knew this was different from all the others.  She had gotten rid of trash in those first moves.  This time, keepsakes and sentimental items were at stake.

The children were gone.  All five had married and moved out-of-state.  Since her husband had retired from pastoring, he now traveled as an evangelist.  That had definitely been an adjustment for her.  She enjoyed traveling with him but had keenly missed being at home. A home showcased a woman’s sense of identity; there she was the queen.  The Travel Trailer was nice, but it couldn’t compare.  The old nesting instinct drew her back. Yes, she had even succeeded in making her modest home a comfortable haven.  But now that was about to change.  Now there was the Realtor and a floor full of boxes.

The ties that once had bound her family securely to the community were now almost completely severed.  Where would life take her now?  Downsizing her home and contents seemed to make sense in her head, but not in her heart.

The cold December winds blew the last of the leaves from the old oak tree in the front yard. It also seemed to be blowing the last bit of resolve from her.  She suddenly felt tired.  Fifty-five was much too young to be breaking up housekeeping and giving her treasures to the kids.  She tried to push the thought from her mind.

A five bedroom home had been her domain when the children were home.  Now she was faced with the chore of moving into a one bedroom unit.  A storage facility would be a necessity.  It would ruin some things and endanger others.  What was the wise thing to do?  Store these things so precious to her or give them away?

She had wanted to pack the important things herself, not wanting to trust her children or anyone else with the job.  That is what she had been doing now for hours. Tears came easy to her tired body.  The Kleenex box, she noticed, was nearby if needed.

The memory of her children’s voices echoed in her mind.  A mother never lets her children grow up.  Everyone knows that.  Her eldest was thirty-seven years old.  Maybe still too young to fully appreciate and preserve the things she had cherished most of her marriage.  How old do kids have to be to appreciate their mom’s private treasures and then guard them as if sacred?

When she was nearly forty-five years old, her mom finally let her have her own Kindergarten report card.  That had been a source of mirth among her and her sisters.  Now she understood her mom a little better.

The tears made the china cabinet seem blurry.  The Kleenex daubed her brown eyes as she tried to understand her thoughts and sort out the emotions that had caught her by surprise.  Today was a bad day.

The “Old Country Roses” china looked back at her.  She remembered the day her husband had brought them home from a trip to Canada, back in 1981.  They were just too special to use every day.  She only brought them out two or three times a year.  This had been not only an expensive set for their modest income, but she had attached a deep sentiment as well.  For several years this set had been promised to her daughter.  She wanted her daughter to have it, but now?  Even knowing how careful and particular her daughter was, she didn’t want to even think about her young grandsons and these dishes in the same room together.

Tea cups and saucers had been carefully packed in new boxes with the names of granddaughters written in cursive on the top.  Each cup and saucer was different.  They had been little presents from her husband returning home from trips. The granddaughters were certainly all too young to appreciate the emotional value or to process the special feeling she had felt when her husband had given them to her.

The Ruby Red set of dishes were acquired when the town was snowed-in with the blizzard of 1978.  Her husband was in Chicago and couldn’t get home for eight days.  To kill time he went to an antique show and bought the dark red dishes used now just for Valentine’s Day or for Christmas.  “You can’t just give children things without letting them know why it was special to start with,” she said to herself.  Her middle son had expressed an interest in this set.  She wrote his name on the box, still hating to part with the set.  Parents would be foolish to give a present that was unwanted.

Her cell phone rang.  The caller ID identified her husband.  He was two thousand miles away.  She was happy to hear his voice and told him so.  At nearly sixty, he still always said sweet nothings to her. Sensing the lack of vibrancy in her voice, he tried to make her laugh and encourage her.  He tried, but what do men know about this emotion?  This was a woman’s thing and she would have to do this by herself.  She wished he was here to help her, but he was being paid regular and that was a blessing this close to Christmas.

After the “Good byes” were said, she laid the phone down.  In the living room she could see the big display cabinet loaded with porcelain dolls.  Most of her dolls were collectables.  Some were custom made just for her. Each doll represented a Birthday, Anniversary or Valentines Day gift from her husband.  They all had a story to tell. Who would these go to?

A red headed doll stood in the corner, dressed in a school girl outfit, complete with books.  She had a cute straw hat and wore little glasses.  This doll was also the most expensive one in the house.  When she had been in the Coronary Unit with congestive heart failure, fighting to survive, her husband had stopped at an elite doll shop in town, buying the prettiest and most expensive in the shop for his ailing wife.  Money was no object where his wife was concerned.  She had survived and so had the doll.  But now the doll had to go, but where?

The photo albums were stacked everywhere.  There were enough pictures in the house to make the folks at National Geographic turn green with envy.  They have to be passed out to the five children, like song books in a church.  She began to go through the albums and then sort them in piles.

What a mess!  She didn’t begrudge her children having these things.  It really wasn’t an “If” question, as much as it was a “When”.  She knew a little about breaking up housekeeping.  The stories of women in her congregation were still resident in her thoughts.  She thought of her own mom after her dad died. Six years later she packed up her house and parceled out most of her precious things. That just had to be tough.  Women may be called the weaker vessel, but they have to do some pretty difficult things.

Then she thought of her grandmother and her eyes found the familiar set of dishes complete with teapot that had been her grandmother’s.  She remembered how she had felt when her grandmother had broken up housekeeping and had given her things away.  Being the eldest granddaughter she had gotten the dishes.

They weren’t particularly pretty or even expensive.  But they were all she had left of her precious grandma.  These dishes were constant reminders of fond memories.

Every time she had used them, dusted them or even looked at them, she was reminded of her grandmother.  They always brought warm feelings and memories of the only grandmother she had ever known.  Just having something of hers was a comfort.  In giving away her things, her grandmother had even more securely cemented the two of them together.  In breaking up housekeeping, she had bonded them by her gift.

Maybe that’s what a mom does.  Maybe that’s what a grandma does.  A mom gives part of herself during the span of the child’s life.  She gives of herself at their birth.  She gives of her time, her love and her heart during their growth.  And in the later season of her life, she gives away some of those visible things she most enjoyed.  She gives it so they might enjoy it too.  That way, her children are forever reminded of her.  Bonded would be a more accurate word.

She smiled at the prospects.  The magic marker began to write a name on a box.  She was not about to let her children forget her and the things that mattered to her.  She wasn’t going to break up her house; she was going to bond this one together!

Written by Martyn Ballestero

January 11, 2010 at 12:35 am

Posted in Family, Life

5 Responses

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  1. I can only imagine what it was like for the both of you!! But you both have given away your specials things to us “early” and we can enjoy them together..Beautifully written..I LOVE IT, brought much tears to my eyes!!


    January 11, 2010 at 8:55 am

  2. Bro Ballestero, This a wonderful piece you have written about your wife. Very few men can see things from a woman’s view point, let alone share the feelings. Your family is such a blessing to many people, thanks!


    January 11, 2010 at 11:51 pm

  3. That is so sweet, Dad, and well written! So glad we have those emotions and feelings captured in time to remember for always.


    January 12, 2010 at 10:42 am

  4. Bro. Ballestero, this is just absolutely awesome! I can surely relate to Sis. Ballestero’s emotions at this time of her life, and it was almost like you were reading my story. We too, are close to downsizing, and I moved from my Dad’s home, ( the New Bethel parsonage) almost forty-one years ago, and have lived in our same home without ever moving, and now we are thinking we will retire to Beebe, AR and I am overwhelmed with the downsizing part of it. So, thank you for sharing this beautiful love story, and making it become so real to your readers. I truly enjoy everything you write. God Bless you and yours,

    Nelda Kyzar

    January 12, 2010 at 4:30 pm

  5. Heya i got to your site by mistake when i was searching bing for something off topic here but i do have say your site is really helpful, like the theme and the content on here…so thanks for me procrastinating from my previous task, lol


    January 21, 2010 at 1:29 pm

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