Wednesday, December 5, 2012

872. Safe Keepings

My mother was a quirky sort.  You either loved her or you hated her, sometimes both simultaneously. 

She pissed off waiters but the mailman adored her.  Her doctors stopped taking her calls but the gardener would bake her banana bread.  When I met people over the past six weeks that knew my mother, they either rolled their eyes with unmasked exasperation and said, “Oh, your mother,” or they gave me a tight hug and said, “Oh, your mother,” in a tone that is normally reserved for nuns and people who walk on the moon.     
She was a study in contrasts. 

A few days after her death, my brother found her small wooden jewelry box in the dresser next to her bed.  Inside was her vintage charm bracelet, her great-grandmother’s pearls, and some silver coins from the 1950’s.  My siblings and I divided up these items according to sentimental value.  My sister Oakley looked overly-glamorous that afternoon wearing the pearls while changing the cat’s litter box. 
Imagine our surprise a few weeks later to find a large steel safe in the back of my mother’s closet. 

When had Mom bought a safe?!  How had none of us seen it before?  Why had she not told my brother, nor given my sister a key or the combination?  What was in there? 
After weeks of cleaning and clearing out the house, the safe was one of the last things left to deal with.  We would need to open it at some point. 

I called a locksmith.  “What is involved with breaking into a safe?” I heard myself ask on the phone.  As the words escaped my lips, I imagined the locksmith alerting the police moments after we hung up. 
In the end, my brother-in-law convinced us to save the $150 locksmith fee because he could break in with a large drill.  My siblings and I stood around watching him for 20 minutes, his safety goggles flecked with dust and specks of metal. 

I found myself wondering what my eccentric mother had hidden inside, her most precious and treasured possession.  Would it be a gigantic file of previously unknown stocks worth billions?  Her grandmother’s famous apple pie recipe?  The Hope Diamond?  The number of a private Swiss bank account?  Keys to a secret Porsche parked elsewhere? Photos of her puppy from childhood? 
The tension was palpable.  I looked at my sister.  I looked at my brother.  All the mysteries of my mother’s life were about to be revealed to us when we would find out what mattered most. 

My brother-in-law slowly removed the safe’s heavy door.  We leaned in.  For a moment, I was scared we might find a dead cat. 
Oakley reached in and pulled out a single piece of cardboard.  Plain, brown, no writing. 

We fell on the floor laughing.  We laughed until we cried, my mother’s sense of humor reaching us from heaven. 


  1. Bringing you together and making you laugh sounds like an incredible family legacy to leave. Here's to appreciating your for the flawed and wonderful human she was.

  2. That's awesome. Makes me want to do something like that for my kids when I get older. Maybe put together a treasure hunt with clues that eventually leads them to my Hope Diamond. Which in my case is just an assortment of some Choose Your Own Adventure books.

  3. Oh my! You wrote this so beautifully. I was feeling very anxious for the end of the story too! Sorry it wasn't millions in gold, diamonds or stocks, but at least you were able to have a little laugh. So glad you're back. I missed you.

  4. My mother could be rather difficult. She left a list telling us which people were to receive particular items. It was definitely intended to please some people and to hurt others. I would have preferred a piece of cardboard.


  5. Beautiful and heart healing. Thank you for sharing these stories with us.

  6. I too was wondering what would be in the safe. Good think you guys saved the locksmith fee and opened it yourself. Your mother sounded like a very interesting woman, many faceted I do believe.


  7. I'm totally doing this for my daughter!
    Thank you for sharing these things. Keep breathing and keep talking about her.

  8. That is so interesting about your mother's contrasting personalities. Most of my either love them or hate them and the feeling is pretty constant. The nasty ones are nasty 24/7 and vice versa for the nice ones.

    Funny about the safe. Actually, this prompts me to be sure to leave the combination to our safe. I don't think I ever gave it much thought. Now I might be inspired to put something in there of interest that people could have a laugh with.

  9. Frick chica, I've fucking missed you.

    When I went through my mom's stuff I found the craziest things. Like letters my Sistah and I wrote to the tooth fairy. Her wallet, with pictures of her dogs and cats but not me.

    I think I miss her too.

  10. Beautiful tribute, MOV. The memories of your mom ARE the treasure. ((HUGS)) Now for the secret spy micro-fiche dot that was stuck on the cardboard... ~R

  11. Aw, this made me sad. I don't want to have to do this one day :(

    I'd lock up that piece of cardboard if I were you. Very special.


    I love your Mom. And you, too. Hang tough.

  13. I am sorry for the loss of your mother. It is never the right time no matter what age we lose our moms, especially being daughters. And I do love her sense of humor. I just posted on my blog last night that may be appropriate for you at ("Dreams.....Hmmmm.....").
    Take care MOV.

  14. I'm glad that you will have this memory to cherish when you look back on your stay there. Thank you for sharing the moment with us. I am also glad your brother-in-law saved you the $150!


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