To be sold eventually to strangers: 1


My dad’s dresser, top drawer on the left.  Camera body, a couple of watches, several lens filters, his Tau Beta Pi key from 1947, batteries, instruction manuals.  And a tiny white envelope with, in his engineer’s printing, the words GOLD CROWN, that contains a gold crown.

This house was new when we moved in, over Christmas 1964.  And now it’s time to clean it out, to let it – and all the stuff – find new owners.  The state of that drawer is indicative of every drawer, cabinet, shelf in the house.  All full, all a jumble of crap and stuff that may not be crap, things I ought to be sentimental about and things I’m not.

How am I going to decide what to keep?  What to throw out?  What to leave for the estate sale?

But before that, how will I even know where to start?

And how can I dispose of everything my dad accumulated for his whole life, and still look him in the eye when I visit him at the assisted living center?

Lubbock, Texas
photographed 8.13.2013

Posted on August 15, 2013, in Photography and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Oh, yes, what a daunting and difficult task. Maybe an opportunity to make wonderful discoveries and connections, though. Maybe images too.
    Best wishes to you, Melinda. x


    • Thank you, Karen. This task has been looming for a while, but I never even thought about using it as a photography project until the day before yesterday. I think turning the process into art is the thing that’ll get me through….


  2. Difficult days ahead. Keep what you think he would have wanted you to have or that which has sentimental value.


  3. Wow Melinda, so gutsy to turn this into an art project and put it before all of us. This is such an intimate and soul wrenching process – it has recently been done out of my household as well. Very difficult thing to go through. I think if you want to keep your creative well from drying up while you get torn apart by this, you need to do something just like you have decided to do. Kudos. And, I love the photo, it is a very promising start.

    I love that he kept the manual for the camera, in apparently perfect condition. I bet that camera still works perfectly too.


    • Thank you, Ehpem. This project just showed up Tuesday, with the title and concept fully formed. And I may not be the smartest person around, but at least I am smart enough to know that when a project announces itself that way, you can’t NOT do it. It’s going to an emotional project, but I think it is what will get me through.

      I love it that he kept the manual for the camera, but left the camera sitting there, collecting all kinds of dust for a few decades! The last I remember hearing about the camera is that it had developed some problem – a light leak, maybe? – and he couldn’t decide if he wanted to get it fixed or not. Maybe by now the source of the light leak is plugged with dust and the camera will work fine.

      (Historical note: this is the very same camera I used in college.)


      • So,something tells me the camera is not going to eventually be sold to strangers, at least not in your lifetime. You should get it fixed and shoot a bit of film. Though likely you have a film camera, or two, kicking around.


      • I actually have the exact camera body. Somewhere. And you’re right – I don’t think this is going to strangers. In his office, Larry has a display of cameras used by various members of the family and he’s already asked to get this one, and the manual, for the display.

        (I earned the money to purchase my camera by hand-lettering a book for a woman I used to know; she taught electronic music in the 1970s – she was way ahead of her time! – and thought it would be entertaining for the textbook she was writing to be hand lettered. So, the summer before my senior year of college, I went to class all day, and stayed up late into the night lettering the book.)


      • Hand lettering was the fashion then – I am glad to see that someone made good use of related income. Our shelves still have some of those books, like the Moosewood Cookbook (a book that would have been improved with both typesetting and an index).

        And, what a fitting next stopping point for your dad’s camera – out of a dark drawer and into it’s natural habitat, the light.


      • I have the Moosewood Cookbook, too! It’s stuck in the Inertia Section – cookbook I never use, but don’t get rid of. Its closest neighbors are “The Provence Cookbook” and a book with the ridiculous title of “A Painter’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keeffe.” (That shelf is rather eclectic.)


      • How can I resist? Our Moosewood Cookbook is sandwiched between Indian Vegetarian Cooking (a terrific book) and Roald Dahl’s Even More Revolting Recipes (I don’t recall that we have ever used that one).


      • “Sandwiched” – I see what you did there!


  4. I have been going through similar drawers of my grandfather’s for a year now. Among the junk, there are precious things that evoke beautiful memories. Take your time and enjoy that part of it. 🙂


  5. I don’t envy your situation at all. When my uncle passed, the only things I wanted to keep were the things that were important to him, the most important being the Purple Heart. Over the years I’ve come to realize that it’s not the number of objects you keep but the importance of those objects. Clearly, this was the only thing to do since there was no real value (financially) to any of things he left but the satisfaction is in keeping those things that keep that memory alive.


    • I know – it’s sort of odd the things that take on great value. My proudest family heirloom is a book of poetry that my great aunt wrote in the 1940s. And I never even met her; I just like knowing there was a poet in the family. (It makes some things make more sense.)


  6. I’ve been through this, and I know how difficult and emotional it can be.
    You just take one day at a time, and listen to your heart.


  1. Pingback: To be sold eventually to strangers, 2 | One Day | One Image

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