Expressway: Inherited symbols of parental lives and love
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They say one man's trash is another man's treasure, and that thought comes to me as I look through the Cape Cod-style home in Oceanside purchased in 1962 by my mother and father, Frank and Henrietta Cannataro. My mother died in 1996. My father left the house to my sister and me when he died a few months ago.
After he was gone, we looked around the empty house where we grew up and that Dad loved so much. At first we felt so overwhelmed by all the stuff. Like so many of their generation, my parents saved everything. And like many in my generation, we faced anxious choices about what to discard and what to keep.
As we started throwing out old phone books and every medical bill from every doctor my parents ever saw, I also discovered many hidden treasures. Mom's pocketbook was in their bedroom closet. It had everything in it, as if she were still here: her driver's license, photographs, even her hairbrush with hair still in it.
Dad was a World War II veteran and a world traveler. He kept everything -- from little spoons from all over the world, to German beer steins, to every letter he wrote to his parents and brother while in the Army. We even found a Voice-O-Graph recording of Dad's voice that he made himself and sent to his parents while training in Indianapolis during the war. A special device is needed to listen to it -- and we can't wait.
In the basement were plastic bins with every greeting card my parents ever received from family and friends, even little notes I would leave my mother when I was going out with friends, long before cellphones.
What a gift it was to have these cards and notes to reread and to see the love I had for my parents, even as a teenager. I'm happy that the cards meant so much that my parents saved them. I'm grateful I can show them to my two 13-year-old daughters.
One day my daughters and I were in the basement and one of them spotted our old kitchen table. It brought back memories of my parents and sister and me having breakfast at that little white table with gold speckles.
My daughter brought it home and uses it as a make-up table, another treasure.
I'm realizing that all these things represent my parents' life journey. I am lucky to visit this journey over and over. Each time I go to the house, I find an item that brings me back to my childhood or teaches me something about my parents I never knew. The letters my father wrote during the war describe his thoughts as a young man. He tells how much he loved his parents and brother, and how he hoped his brother wouldn't have to go to war (my uncle eventually enlisted in the Marines so he wouldn't miss the chance to serve).
I have been carrying some things back to my house: A little pair of Dutch shoes that my parents brought back from Holland now sits on my living room mantle. So does a statue of an old man that Dad bought in Japan.
He always said, "After I'm gone, all of this is yours." Everything, from the furniture to collectibles to all the hidden treasures, means more to me than anything.
Daniela Hansen, a Newsday editorial assistant, lives in Massapequa Park.