death of a friend reminded me of a life passage that many of us have
to go through — cleaning out the homes of parents after they
die. I’ve done it twice now, one for my parents and one for
most recent occasion was when Fluffy’s last parent died three
years ago, right before Christmas. We flew to Utah the week before
Christmas and spent several days buried in snow, going through
ninety-plus years of Fluffy’s parents’ lives.
always amazes me how much you can learn about people by going through
their possessions — and how often you are surprised by what you
learn. Fluffy’s stepmother (his first mother died when he was
nine, and Beth was mother number two) kept as clean a house as you’d
expect a ninety-plus-year-old woman to do, and probably a lot cleaner
than I would have kept one. The counters were cleared off, and except
for the treasures you’d expect to find on the surface of an
elderly lady’s furniture (framed photographs and little statues
sitting atop hand-crocheted doilies), the place was clutter-free and
was only when we started pulling out drawers and opening cabinet
doors that we were exposed to the seamy underbelly of human lives.
parents kept everything.
They weren’t hoarders, because they only kept what could be
safely hidden out of sight, but the drawers and the cabinets and the
closets were jam-packed with stuff that had no use to any earthly
never threw away a calendar. I’m not talking about the
calendars you write on, which could conceivably serve as journals
because you can look up days to see what you did on a certain date.
That would be understandable. They kept little bitty pocket calendars
and gas station calendars and whatever free calendars they received,
most of which looked as though they had never been opened or used.
had calendars going back to 1936. This is not an exaggeration. 1936.
This was a leap year, starting on a Wednesday — the year that
King George V of England died. The year that Gone
with the Wind was
published. The year that Jesse Owens humiliated the Nazis by winning
the 100-meter run in the Berlin Olympics. That
kept every old hearing aid they had ever owned. They stored them in
small jewelry boxes — the kind you get when you buy a ring or a
bracelet at a jewelry store. I would open a box thinking it contained
a treasure, only to find a waxy, dead hearing aid that was years or
decades old. That kind of thing can really put you off your feed.
was a closet that held Fluffy’s clothes from junior high
school. This may not seem strange, until you learn that Fluffy’s
parents lived in a different house until after Fluffy was grown up
and married. When his parents moved, they took his ancient clothes
with them and hung them up in a closet in their new home, ready for
him to wear if some malfunction of the universe sent him back to his
junior high school body.
found old wrapping paper from long-forgotten Christmas presents.
Fluffy’s parents would carefully unwrap each gift, fold the
paper, and use it the next time there was a gift-giving opportunity.
Some of the paper had been used so often that the designs looked like
wrapping paper from the 1950s. It may well have been wrapping paper
from the fifties, for all I know. There were stains all over the
paper where old strips of Scotch tape had been removed or had rotted
off and the glue remained.
downstairs freezer was full of foods we had given them for
Christmases and birthdays that had never been touched. Candy.
Pistachios. Everything was still in the original container. It had
been put in the freezer as gourmet food storage that had never been
needed. A lot of the stuff was as good as the day we had purchased it
in Virginia and mailed it to them in Utah. We put it in their car,
had the car shipped home to us, and ate the stuff in Virginia
solved a mystery when we went through that house. For years, every
time Fluffy’s father wrote a letter to us, he would cut off the
bottom part of the paper that didn’t have any writing on it.
Fluffy’s father was a child of the Depression, and that’s
the kind of thing that children of the Depression tended to do. We
used to laugh about the effort he had taken to get the scissors and
cut off two inches of paper to use for some unknown purpose.
Fluffy went through their games cabinet, he learned what his father
had done with that paper. He had taken those little strips of paper
and stapled them together to make score pads for card games. There
were many, many score pads in the games cabinet because Lloyd had
used far more pieces of paper than he had needed for score pads. But
he had personified the Depression-era motto of, “Use it up,
wear it out, make it do or do without.” This generation could
benefit by learning that phrase and applying it to their lives —
but perhaps not to the degree that Fluffy’s parents did.
I think about the things Fluffy’s parents kept, I wonder what
other things we hang onto — things that are no longer healthy
for us to keep. Are we hanging onto grudges? Are we holding onto hurt
feelings? Are we remembering times we have been hurt? Are we
suffering over the unfairness of life?
as with our physical keepsakes, we choose our emotional baggage. We
choose love or hate. We choose happiness or misery. We choose
gratitude or self-pity.
I look around my office, I see a lot of things that can and should be
thrown out. Those things are easy to see. The harder inventory is the
internal one. What is cluttering up my mind and my soul? If I can rid
myself of these things, it will be a lot easier to live a life of joy
Kathryn H. Kidd has been writing fiction, nonfiction, and "anything for money" longer than
most of her readers have even been alive. She has something to say on every topic, and the
possiblity that her opinions may be dead wrong has never stopped her from expressing them at
A native of New Orleans, Kathy grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana. She attended Brigham
Young University as a generic Protestant, having left the Episcopal Church when she was eight
because that church didn't believe what she did. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints as a BYU junior, finally overcoming her natural stubbornness because she
wanted a patriarchal blessing and couldn't get one unless she was a member of the Church. She
was baptized on a Saturday and received her patriarchal blessing two days later.
Kathy married Clark L. Kidd, who appears in her columns as "Fluffy," more than thirty-five
years ago. They are the authors of numerous LDS-related books, the most popular of which is A
Convert's Guide to Mormon Life.
A former managing editor for Meridian Magazine, Kathy still moderates a weekly column
("Circle of Sisters") for Meridian. However, her biggest claim to fame is that she co-authored
Lovelock with Orson Scott Card. Lovelock has been translated into Spanish and Polish, which
would be a little more gratifying than it actually is if Kathy had been referred to by her real name
and not "Kathryn Kerr" on the cover of the Polish version.
Kathy has her own website, www.planetkathy.com, where she writes a blog entry every
weekday. Her entries recount her adventures and misadventures with Fluffy, who heroically
allows himself to be used as fodder for her columns at every possible opportunity.
Kathy teaches the Young Women in her ward. A long-time home teacher with her husband, Clark, they have home taught the same family since 1988. The two of them have been temple workers since 1995, serving in the Washington D.C. Temple.