How do you empty your childhood home?
How do you bag up 54 years of framed photos, scrapbooks, baby clothes, books, cookbooks, children's art work, thank you cards, birthday cards, holiday cards, sympathy cards and letters and letters?
How do you find the guts to stuff old enchanting wedding pictures into a city-approved garbage bag with a city-approved twist tie? And then older pictures of stern figures in overalls standing on farms long turned to dust?
And while you're doing this over the longest of weekends, while you're shedding coats of memories, while you're stumbling on his last driver's license or opening the slender perfumed drawers of her jewelry box to find the cheap bracelet you bought her at 7, while you're at it smile.
Oh, to have gone into the picture framing or greeting card business!
And what made any boy think a white leisure suit was a winning assemble for high school prom -- complete with a dress shirt the color of spoiled Sangria with collar flaps rivaling the wings of a Boeing 727.
Boxes and boxes of stuff, all to be judged and adjudicated. What gets saved, what doesn't.
There, a tarnished strand of dinner bells; the soundtrack to a childhood; the 6:30 p.m. evening call to stop playing touch football next door and come in for dinner; the sound of ignoring the dinner bells until a parental visit was required.
Yes, save the dinner bells.
The WD-40 still in the utility room? No.
The ornaments on the first Christmas tree in 1962 and on the last tree in 2015? Too much to process for one day.
Time to spend the first of two nights, your last nights in the old Florida home, alone.
Lights out -- but then the ghosts come out. Generations of ghosts spared the packing, the future estate sale, spared the fact there's not a single thing to eat or drink in a house that for 54 years was supplied to feed a tiny country.
Lights on -- every light in every room. As has been documented, ghosts shy from halogens, fluorescents or LEDs. You got to blind those suckers, so you can try and get a little rest.
Because the next day you're back on the job.
The mixer, toaster, dulled steak knives? Toss.
Those cool model cars and airplanes built on the family's card table in the 60s? Maybe someone will want them (that's what you are saying a lot: "Maybe someone will want them....").
Her art work? Of course save.
Grandmother's 1924 wedding dress under wraps and hanging in the hall closet? (Was she really that small?) What are you supposed to do with this?
This you save: a black and white photo of your mother standing in her wedding dress arm-locked with her father outside the church. Waiting for the moment before opening the door to the rest of her life. Her veiled eyes looking straight head, the slightest smile. Her father, who would live only another five years, looking ahead but with the slightest look of loss.
So many pictures of the actual wedding, the cutting of the cake, honeymoon send-off. But you keep the one picture of her standing with her father before she walked into her future, your future, and before you all walked into the house you are now emptying.
Then it's time for bed.
Time, for the last time, to leave the lights on.