Plum Johnson is visiting the Burford Branch of the County of Brant Library next weekend to talk about her book describing her experience cleaning out her childhood home after the loss of her elderly mother. The author spent a year living in her parent’s home, going through the history of a lifetime, donating junk and cataloguing belongings. She came to know her mother more intimately and learned about herself during the 16 months she spent in the home.
The relationship between mother and daughter was strained at times. There was an obligation to spend time together. Plum helped her mother with tasks and she admitted that she yearned for freedom. She spent time with her mother at the expense of her own children and at times resented her duty to her mom – and then suddenly, she was gone leaving a void.
The family had moved to Oakville when it had “the feel of an artistic summer-camp community – sleepy and rural, surrounded by farmland” with one traffic light which is very different from the populous, affluent Oakville of today. The home was overlooking the lake and expansive for their family of 7. They lived through drafty winters, parties when they rolled up the rugs to dance and sadness with the loss of Plum’s brother and the slow decline of her father. The home was a home base and they each shared their unique memories and discussed strategy for cleaning up the home at their sibling suppers.
As Plum cleaned the house, she also came to terms with the relationship she shared with her mother. She learned more about her family history through letters and journals. She found a letter written by her mother saying that she loved her. I enjoyed the book and was happy to start reading and realize that the home was not a house of hoarders which was what I was imagining was the”everything”. I am looking forward to hearing more about the author’s experience. This book has been nominated for an Evergreen Award along with Birdie which was a contender in the 2016 Canada Reads competition.
“Earlier I had resolved to clear out my own mess too, so my children wouldn’t have to face it but since then I have had a change of heart. Now I believe that this clearing out is a valuable process – best left for our children. It is the only way they’ll ever truly get to know us, discovering things that we never wanted them to find”.