When one of our beloved relatives dies, it's nice to keep some of his possessions, but it's often difficult to know how many things are enough.
I wondered about this problem when I traveled to Chile in March to sell my apartment in Santiago City. I inherited the flat after my mother died in 1999 and was living there until I met my husband in 2008 and moved to Chesterfield County.
One of my cousins offered to buy the flat, so my husband and I traveled to Chile to take care of the paperwork.
The day before our return to the United States, I had one last difficult task: cleaning up the flat's storage. The youngest of my mother's sisters, Aunt Patty, went with me.
Removing the stuff was similar to an archaeological dig. We found pieces of wood and tiles, leftovers from the last improvements made to the apartment. There also were bags of clothing and books. Then we found old college and school notebooks, drawings, a mountain of letters and greeting cards. The most emotional were all of the Mother's Day cards written by my sister and me to Mom year by year.
Among the letters there were hundreds of postcards sent from Barcelona, Spain, by my Aunt Carmen, my father's sister.
In 1970, my father died in a mining accident and Mom moved to Santiago, Chile, with us. That was when Aunt Carmen started to send us letters and postcards with Spanish views. She didn't stop until she was too old to hold a pen to write.
Tears filled my eyes thinking of her, because she built a solid communication bridge between the Chilean and Spanish families.
Aunt Patty and I cried and shared memories as we discovered more and more things.
In the evening, our husbands came to pick us up to carry some stuff to my sister's house. At the last minute, I found a little green metal box full of pencils. It was decorated with red-and-yellow kites. My mother had used it to keep pencils and crayons to help us with our homework.
The metal box had been with us all through our childhood. And my mother used it with her grandchildren as well. I remember her seated beside my niece and nephew, drawing funny things.
I made the mistake of throwing the green metal box in the trash bag. I later regretted my action, but it was too late. I felt miserable.
Although I was sure I had kept the most important belongings from my parents, I missed that humble little box.
Just how many things are enough to preserve the memories?
Sometimes, what comes to my mind is the image of my mom drawing with my sister and me and that green metal box.