A Family Time Capsule


My Mom & Dad--photo found in drawer

This past week has been a busy, hectic and emotionally draining week. My oldest son Steve lives in Alaska, and he was able to extend his stay to help me go through Jimbo’s home after the funeral. I took advantage of the extra help, and we managed to clear out all the dresser drawers, desks, closets, cabinets, cupboards, and cubby holes. It was a gargantuan task. Without help, I’d be working at it for months. But it’s done now.

We sorted, organized, pitched, sent to Good Will, took things to the dump, filled at least 35 huge black trash bags with general garbage and recyclables. We dispensed to friends and family the items we knew they would want and/or Jimbo wanted them to have. We also filled several boxes of things I need to go through. Right now those boxes are in my living room where I can empty them at my own pace and not be surrounded by everything that Jimbo touched, used, lived with for the last twenty years.

I discovered some traits about my son. He was a packrat. Although the family knew him to be frugal, we found that he owned fishing equipment enough for ten fishermen. He had drawers full of socks, underwear, and closets stuffed with clothes, jackets, boots etc. e kept every receipt  He kept every receipt for even minimal purchases. For example I found receipts for 6 donuts, two cups of coffee and a loaf of bread. Now why would anyone keep such a receipt? For 10 years? But that was so Jimbo.

And photos. I have 8 large photo albums staring at me plus 2 full boxes and a shopping bag full of loose photos. Some photos are in beautiful frames and very old—of people I’m not sure who they are. Others I know and so did Jimbo, but he wasn’t even born when many of the photos were taken.

Which gets me to the title of this post. The time capsule.


Aunt Gertie--Jimmbo's godmother, found in box

Among the detritus we found treasures. Jimbo bought his home twenty years ago from my mother. Mom was moving into an apartment and left a lot there for Jimbo to use. Or throw out. Or store. We found the very old, circa 1940s hand clippers that my father owned and used to cut all my brothers’ hair. We found the Bible that was given to my father’s family when his mother died. We found a very old, glass oil lamp in perfect condition, a photo of Jimbo’s great aunt and godmother as a young girl—judging from her hair style and clothing, early 1920s. I found newspaper clippings of my grandfather’s untimely death while snow shoveling in 1959 and pictures of factories no longer standing. I also unearthed the cheap cardboard manger which held the nativity scene our family put up every Christmas when I was little.

Nestled right near his modern archery equipment and hunting gear were my dad’s very old arrow quiver, his hunting gear, old and antique arrows and bows. We found pieces of very old mismatched sterling silver flatware. Obviously they belonged to someone in our family, but I have no idea who. Stuck far back in a closet was a punch bowl and cups, not glass but porcelain with hand-painted designs. I’m stumped. I don’t ever remember seeing that, but some female relative must have loved it and passed it on to my mother.

On his nightstand, Jimbo still had the rosary he’d taken from my mother’s bedside after she died. Also in that room in a place where his eyes would often  glance up to it was a framed collage of photos of Jimbo with the woman he loved and lost.

Grampa Dieter, Jerry & Mary Jo

Yes, his home was a time capsule—one that allowed me to stray down memory lane while being poked into finding out more about our family and our history because of things we found and don’t recognize.

So many times this week as my son Steve and I worked through each closet, cupboard, drawer, or desk, I thought about how these past few weeks have impacted me, how I’ve thrown out my emotions in the words I’ve written in these posts. I know that in some manner what I write will be affected. I know who I am, the essence of me, has been further tempered and forged. I may have been strong before, but now I’m more so.

Thank you all for being my sounding board.


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13 Comments on “A Family Time Capsule”

  1. Anne Parent Says:

    Thank you for sharing your memories over the past weeks. This post reminded me of the week my brother and I spent going through my parents’ items. We cried and we laughed at the memories, and my brother and I grew much closer. We also learned a lot about our family. Take your time and remember to laugh and smile. I never knew Jimbo, but I know that’s what he would want you to do.

  2. Edie Ramer Says:

    Mary Jo, Anne said so well what I was thinking. I can feel your emotion, the sweetness with the sad, as I read this. You are a wonderful writer to convey they with your words. I’m glad you made it to the meeting on Saturday, and we had a chance to talk for a little while.

  3. Another touching post, Casey. Love you!

  4. caseyclifford Says:


    Without friends like you and others I’ve gathered round me in my life, these past weeks would have been so much more difficult. I’m so glad my ramblings fed pleasant memories for you of your time with your brother. Bitter always comes best with dashes of sweet. We eventually remember the sweet more than the bitter. 🙂

  5. caseyclifford Says:


    I’m also very glad I made the meeting on Saturday. It was destined as we had full coverage for Steven’s nursing that day. Getting among writers and dealing with creative issues has me once again thinking maybe I can write again.

  6. caseyclifford Says:


    And I love you! Thanks for hanging with me over these past weeks. 🙂

  7. Such wonderful memories, Mary Jo. And you know how much I love you. 🙂

    My brother and I had to do the same when my dad passed several years ago. He lived in his parents’ house in Chicago, and the family had been there since like the 20s. I remember having dinner there as a very little girl, and waiting for Great-Aunt Margaret to come down from the attic to join us. None of us had ever been up in the attic, so it was such a strange feeling going up there that very first time. It was exactly like you described, walking into a time capsule.

  8. caseyclifford Says:

    Oh, Donna, so we share yet another element in our lives. Memories, good and not-so-good are worth having about those we loved who are no longer with us. Going through all those bits and pieces of the past was something I’ll always remember.

    And I love you also! :-)Note I’m adding some smiley faces again.

  9. What is it about this group of amazing women … women who tug at my heart and fill my soul with wonder and joy? Afterall, it is early in the am. The time I cruise around in cyber space, check out blogs, read emails and get the latest news from WF.

    To better understand The Time Capsule I went back three posts to read about your son, and your family and thank you for sharing.

    You are an extraordinary and courageous woman, who with love and care shared her farewell to her son.

  10. caseyclifford Says:

    Thank you, Rambling, for stopping by and offering a comment. I found the posts today on WF particularly inspiring also and bought Bridge to Happiness. Jill’s experience has been different but the same. We both are finding our written words helping us work through our grief and sadness.

  11. Deb Says:

    What heartfelt memories! This past week I also helped sort my step-dads photos for the memorial boards. Afterward, I took many of the group photos to be scanned and put onto a cd so siblings could share. Still a lot more to do but I’ll soon buy a scanner for photos and negatives. I recall doing the same after Mom’s passing.

    So difficult, yet a critical and bittersweet task, this sorting through his household. So many precious memories, MJ. I’m glad your son was there to help you through.

  12. caseyclifford Says:


    I find it a wonder that our experiences so often mirror each other. Is it the Capricorn in our natures?

    Hope you’ve gotten some rest since you got home.

  13. Catherine Clark Says:

    In the end, our connections to our families go beyond the rational. Why keep pictures of people that maybe were dead before we knew them. My daughter keeps a picture of my father in a frame in her bedroom, yet he died before she was born. I think the answer is we appear to want to belong to something –even if the thread is thin. Jimbo felt the thread tugging him toward that connection.

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