An early Christmas present to savor

I gave my brother Jay an early Christmas present the other day or at least something to keep him amused while he begins the recuperation process this week from knee replacement surgery.

He rolled into town from Columbus for a brief visit last week, and I gave him two big envelopes stuffed with Jay childhood and young adulthood memorabilia he wasn’t expecting.

But as I reminded him — our mother has been the faithful keeper of all things through the years, including, along with a bounty of other stuff, anything and everything relevant to me and my four siblings.

And I have boxes and boxes and boxes as proof.

My ongoing mission — which I have chosen to accept since it’s all in my midst as the dweller now in the family homestead where this collection was amassed — is to sort, sort, sort and sort some more.

Some of this has been motivated by a preference, a natural longing, if you will, to have functional closet space, so I have been diligent to go through these boxes at my leisure, initially making five piles — a Linda pile, a Cathy pile, a Jay pile, a David pile and a Janice pile.

When the piles start to get too big and threaten to topple over, the piles go into big envelopes marked for their intended recipient, and new piles take shape.

Pictures, letters, report cards, art projects, English papers, Vacation Bible School certificates, envelopes bearing a first-haircut clipping, school photos — it doesn’t take long for a pile to become a mountain.

And as I explained to my brother Jay, it’s not for me to pile and pitch, hence the presentation of an installment of stuff specific to him. He can decide its fate.

I assured him it would be a memory-lane trip a new knee could navigate with ease.

He smiled at this after a slight gasp at having spotted his Troop 20 Cub Scout suit neatly folded in a baggie and accompanied by a picture of him in it.

I’m pretty sure he’ll enjoy all these treasures he’ll read and remember.

I know I keep enjoying my own piles, especially the variety of what my mom squirreled away.

One is a “Giggle Club Book” I made in 1966 that included the names of nine members and six rules: Laugh at lunch; laugh at recess; laugh at all times; make other members laugh; always be happy, never be sad; and if you get mad at someone, you get kicked out of the club.”

The book included a secret code and “one most important rule of all — no boys allowed at any time!”

Indeed!

Another gem is a letter with a 3 cent stamp my mother received at Ohio Valley Hospital in the days following my birth in 1958.

It was written by her best friend, Mid Kinney, who was babysitting one of the four Hout kids farmed out to various locations while mom entertained stork visit No. 5.

Mid told my mom she’d allowed my sister Cathy to wear her good pink dress for school group pictures that day, sending her off with a prayer in hopes “it would come back in one piece.”

Mid also told my mom she’d just finished feeding her husband and my dad, who were erecting a TV antenna on the roof and had stopped long enough to refuel before finishing the job.

And Mid shared a joke, too.

“An old gentleman had raised his family, amassed a fortune and seen all of his children married. However, no grandchildren were forthcoming, so he arranged a dinner and invited all sons and daughters and their spouses. He began the blessing by thanking God for his family and his prosperity. Then he added how thankful he was that he had been able to deposit $10,000 that day in the name of the first grandchild to appear. He continued his prayer and raised his head, only to find himself suddenly alone.”

I guess they were suddenly motivated to start families.

As for me, I remain motivated to make piles.

(Kiaski, a resident of Richmond, is a staff columnist and community editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)

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