We're doing another estate sale on Saturday, so I've been back at the grandparental ranch the last couple days, rearranging things and cleaning things up and finding new stuff to sell (want a vintage 50 X 50 projection screen from Sears? mint condish). My grandma was a Shaklee dealer and listen, there is SO MUCH Shaklee stuff still in the house, even though she's been gone three years and hadn't sold anything for several years before that. I threw out a lot of stale lipstick and fiber supplements when I was first going through the house, let's just put it that way. Even now there are still metering spray bottles for soil boosters and all manner of other organic gardening supplies. Do soil supplements go bad? For 25 cents you can find out.
My memories of the supplement-boosted life go way back: we would sprinkle protein powder on cereal and be plied with multi-vitamin syrup as kids, and when we were visiting my grandparents we would sneak down into the supply room--they ran the business out of the basement--and eat energy bars, which felt like candy to us, and probably cost my grandma a lot of money.
Anyway, yesterday I was emptying out the remaining stuff in the supply room--it had become a catch-all storage area in recent years--and pricing some giant tins for the sale, when I noticed that one of them wasn't empty. I pried the lid off. It was full of paper lunch bags, labeled in my grandma's handwriting--tarragon, basil, sage--and inside the bags were herbs grown in her garden and dried in her house ("don't throw out," she'd written on the bag of basil). I don't remember when she stopped gardening, but I'm sure they were from years and years ago. I can just picture her putting them away in the storage room and then forgetting about them. I crushed a little of each between my fingers, and they were still pungent, especially the sage. It was one of those estate-cleaning moments when you have to muster up all your ruthlessness, knowing that the herbs aren't as good or efficacious as something grown more recently, and that only sentimentality would cause you to hang on to them. I think the thing that made it most difficult is that Grandma's hand was in all of it: the growing, the harvesting, the drying, the labeling, the storing, the forgetting.
One of the last conversations I had with her, actually, on a day I went to sit with her while she lay in her hospital bed in the living room, was about some flowers that had been brought in from the garden. She couldn't remember what they were called, and I was no help, talking too loudly, enunciating too much. Maybe it was the stuff that just grows without any tending. I hope whoever moves into the house wants to bring the gardens back to life.