My husband, his brother and I were cleaning out the Smith family home getting it ready for sale. His parents had both passed on, and it was time to settle the estate.
“Wonder what’s in there?” we asked as we blew the dust off the unmarked cardboard box.
My husband pried back the cardboard flaps to find Christmas gifts from 1954, still wrapped. Labels indicated that the presents were for my mother- and father-in-law and the children of the family, but they had never been opened.
“Huh,” my brother-in-law said. “These must be from the year of “the falling out.”
The gifts were from family members that I had heard about but never met, because after “the falling out” the relationship had never healed properly and soon was irrevocably broken. “The falling out” in 1954 had obviously happened at some point between the delivery of the presents and Christmas Day.
“What did they fight about?” I asked.
“I have no idea,” my husband said.
We looked down on 57 years of festering resentment stored up in a dust-covered box. What’s more, the family had moved in 1965, so they had packed up this box and moved it from one house to another.
“What should we do with them?” I asked.
“It’s about time we opened them,” my brother-in-law said.
We found two shirts for my father-in-law, a dressing gown for my mother-in-law, and little shirt and pant sets for the boys. Of all the poignant moments we experienced when we cleaned out the house, that was one of the saddest.
So much waste. Wasted gifts. Wasted family connections. And we have no idea why.
- Don’t let festering resentments linger in the basement.
- Don’t pack them up and bring them with you wherever you go.
- Not everything is easy to forgive, but if there’s a chance that, in 57 years, your children or grandchildren will ask, “What did they fight about?” and the answer will be, “I have no idea,” let whatever it is that you’re holding onto go.