For the past month, my sister and I have been cleaning out a dusty storage unit my mother had filled with nothing and everything. Painstakingly, we have gotten up early, gone to the unit, and dug through boxes of my mother's life. We've found old photos, jewelry, socks, clothes, out-dated workout equipment, broken glass, and layers upon layers of El Paso desert dust that settled upon things we'd forgotten about.
We'd get there clad in workout gear with white rubber gloves and sunscreen ready. I've suffered two sunburns on my back and shoulders, 20 sneezes, one stubbed toe, many sore muscles, and countless memories as we reminisced with the things we found. I took pictures of my favorite navy blue vans with Nirvana lyrics scribbled on the side from high school. I took home a cast iron pan, shish kabob skewers, and a marble cutting board. We donated countless things and threw away many others. Last Saturday, we finally finished.
Several family members showed up and worked at loading a rented U-Haul. In the back, hidden by another bed frame was my old bed. A wooden twin bed headboard and footboard sat covered in a think layer of dust.
"Do you want your bed?" my mom asked.
I looked at her not knowing what to say. I turned back toward the bed and remembered sleeping in it every night up until I went away to college.
My sister, Angie, looked at me, "Do you wanna sell it?"
"I don't know. Do I?" I asked.
My husband and uncle moved around us asking what to load and what to leave for me to sell. I looked at the wooden spirals and choked a bit. The dust seemed to settle in my throat. I felt my eyes begin to strain around the edges.
"If you do sell it, make sure you get a good amount. It's solid wood," Angie said shaking her head for emphasis.
I stayed quiet. The moment the three of us had amongst all the movement broke. They walked in opposite directions and gave instructions on different items. The bed frame stayed resting against the metal wall.
A moment later, I stood outside with my mom. We both welcomed the breeze after being inside the stuffy, still air of the storage unit.
"I think you should take your bed. Even if you decide to sell it later. You know, your dad wasn't always bad," she said turning away from me to face the breeze.
I stayed quiet for a moment.
"I'd forgotten he made the bed for me," I swallowed the words 'until I saw it'.
"Take it," was all she said.
With the unit almost empty I walked inside and grabbed the headboard from the middle. The wood was solid and my gloved hand immediately rubbed off years of dust. I held it in my hand and slowly raised it to rest on my shoulder. I thought it would be heavier. I walked to the gray Toyota pick-up truck filled with items I was taking to sell.
"Here!" I called up to my husband who stood in the back of the truck.
"We're taking this?" he asked. Beads of sweat bubbled to the surface on the skin of his forehead.
"Yeah. It's my bed."
He looked at me, then reached for it. I went back for the footboard. He placed both in the back of the back.
Later, as I unloaded the truck into the garage with Angie, I rubbed the dust off the brown spirals while she walked a dusty bike inside. I imagined the hands that made the bed, broad-palmed, brown with short fingers, the skin still taunt as they stained the spirals a rich dark brown decades ago. Light nicks scarred the wood in places from use and age. I fingered them with my dingy gloved hand and tried to remember how some of them got there and couldn't. That's the thing about scars though, even if I couldn't remember how they got there, the white gashes still stood out against the dark wood.
"Is that the last piece?" Angie asked.
I nodded and handed the footboard down to her.