Treasures from My Parents’ House

June 30, 2016

BH

I’m learning a lot in the process of reassigning my deceased parents’ material legacy– in other words, figuring out what do with over fifty years of stuff in their house. Every time I’ve gone there since my mother passed away in February, I have accomplished very little towards this end. On one visit, I paged through yearbooks and read my camp letters addressed to “the Fun-lovin’ Fidels.” (I have new respect for my mother for reading them to the end.) When my brother Robert assembled a box of obvious Rudolph family pictures, I obligingly took it home and parked it in a place where I would see it yet not trip over it– and that’s where it has remained. I’m still not sure what to do with it, but I decided to err on the side of caution and keep it.

The bedroom that was “mine” hasn’t been mine for many years. My small desk in the corner (my older sister Stephanie got the bigger built-in one but somehow that never bothered me) is without the blotter that I doodled on; the desktop is now dominated by the mirror my mother used in her struggle against macular degeneration. The drawers are empty, too, with no sign of my legendary treasure: the small white box that warned everyone to “Keep Out.” Inside was my generous snip of our dog Lobo’s white poodle fur. (Yes, even as a young girl, I was acutely aware that nothing lasts forever.) Now, according to Torah, dogs don’t go to heaven, but if they did, Lobo surely would have merited the opposite–he bit, he was never house trained, and he refused to eat dog food. We loved him because we didn’t know any better, but now not even his box of fur bears witness to his time in this world. This loss helps further my personal agenda not to be attached to stuff, sentimental or otherwise. Which is why I bought the biggest bin I could carry and decided to fill it with keepsakes. And when it’s filled it’s filled.

The box sat empty in my parents’ living room for weeks until my brother Robert gave me a clear directive: take what’s yours. My first stop was to take what I always said I wanted: my collection of MAD magazines from their third floor. They, too, are gone, which only means I will have to work harder to remember “Dave Berg’s Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.” Then again, maybe I won’t.

With the focus of a scavenger hunt, I began collecting other items of mine: a diploma, a meaningless high school award, a yearbook. I do hope to find the picture frame with my name engraved on it, especially because it testifies that I came into this world weighing 6 pounds, 13 ounces, and there are 613 mitzvos in the Torah. (Of course, I try to follow the Torah regardless of my birthweight, so I’m not desperate to find this treasure either.) All the dolls are “mine” too, but they look as if they’re better left as memories. Barbie’s and Ken’s clothes are crumpled in their doll cases, but the dolls themselves have gone AWOL. I am comforted that I already know that Barbie, Ken, Midge, Skipper, Scooter and anyone who came after are only valuable if they’re in perfect condition in the original box, and there’s no way in the world I would ever have wanted to leave my gorgeous, hot-pink lipstick wearing, platinum-haired with a bubble-cut Barbie in a box.

The Judaica is obviously mine, Robert assured me, even though it wasn’t officially mine and I’m not sure I even want it. But at least I can recognize it: the tzedaka box our kids gave my parents, the tchotchkes (mostly figurines of shtetl Jews), anything with Hebrew writing.

But my parents had lots of other stuff, too.

“Think about what you want,” my brother suggested as we looked around the basement.

“I want Moshiach,” I answered without hesitating, “and the most important thing to me is furthering that agenda.”

“I know that,” he answered with a smile. His answer made me happier than any stuff ever could.

18 Comments

  1. Reply

    Yael

    Beautiful, as always.

  2. Reply

    Lieba Rudolph

    Thank you, Yael…I love hearing from you!

  3. Reply

    shells

    Loved this one Liebela!!
    It’s completely you, and speaks so loudly to those who know and love you.

    1. Reply

      Lieba Rudolph

      Thanks, Shells. This moment is a powerful culmination of my time in my parents’ house. I’m so glad it came through!

  4. Reply

    Sara

    Been going through this with my own “stuff”. Sold the 7 bedroom house in Spring 2014, rented a 2 bedroom condo. Just moved to a 1 bedroom. Scanning old photos is a great way to save, preserve and share…Then toss the box.
    Lightening the load, lighting the path forward.

    1. Reply

      Lieba Rudolph

      I actually took pictures of the pictures as they were displayed in their house…glad I did that.Sara, I wish you all the best as you journey to the time which is all good for everyone–may it happen NOW!

  5. Reply

    Ali

    Wow! That is quite a challenge, going through a lifetine’s worth of things, the nostalgia could overwhelm anybody. I loved the ending of this piece! Good Shabbos!

    1. Reply

      Lieba Rudolph

      Thanks, Ali. Glad you enjoyed…I love hearing from you!

  6. Reply

    Denese

    Dear Liebe
    Very meaningful as I recently lost my father who had lived in an Old Aged home for many years and I was distressed at how little he had left ( in material terms) in this world
    Your article has made me see this in a different perspective
    Wishing you a long and healthy life

    1. Reply

      Lieba Rudolph

      Transitions are always challenging, but I’m glad my words were helpful, Denese. I wish you only revealed blessings always!

  7. Reply

    DL Rosenfeld

    This one really drew me in… Feel like I’m right there, looking over your shoulder!

    1. Reply

      Lieba Rudolph

      Glad you enjoyed it, DL. Thanks for commenting, too!

  8. Reply

    robert half

    As usual your “pondering Jew” is a treat to read.
    What would you ask from the Masiach or want to give
    him if he really did arrive?
    Way down deep, in the cognitive part of your mind, do you
    really believe this could happen or is it all based upon your faith?
    Love to all your beautiful family, whom I miss so much,
    Bob

    1. Reply

      Lieba Rudolph

      I love that you enjoy this blog, Bob, and love your hearing from you. I don’t know exactly who said this but, “at the end of the day, for the non-believer there are no answers and for the believer, there are no questions.” We all think and believe differently based on many complicated factors that make us who we are. My relationship with G-d has grown through many years of serious study and personal effort; in fact, I want to do more than believe in G-d, I want to know Him. It’s a lot to ask, I’m aware, but I’m a spoiled little Jewish girl and I like getting what I want. And I’m not afraid to work for it.
      When Moshiach arrives, please G-d soon, I’m not sure we will have to line up to ask for anything–the world will be correcting itself. We won’t even “think” with the same faculties we use now.
      Belief in the coming of Moshiach is a core, essential and eternal Jewish tenet–the 12th of Rambam’s 13 Principles of Jewish Faith. And when I learned about it, everything in the world made much more sense. In fact, Moshiach is what motivated me to become observant! Now a lot could have happened since you wrote this to me, Bob, but am I correct that you don’t believe in the coming of Moshiach? If that’s true, may I respectfully ask you to examine where you got your information?

  9. Reply

    Robin

    Having gone through this journey…the house lived in 50 years, not the religion….you really captured the unexpected nature or what is discovered and what is missing..Mad magazine, really?

    1. Reply

      Lieba Rudolph

      What we look for depends on us, right? I always value humor, which is why I went straight for the MADs! I love hearing from you, Robin!

  10. Reply

    leon luftig

    I really enjoy reading your in depth articles. Makes me think after a long week in the office

    1. Reply

      Lieba Rudolph

      Aryeh!!! I am so happy to hear from you…glad you enjoy this blog. I hope you and your family are all doing well!

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