Christmas Conversations and Hand-me-downs

Writing this from Oregon, sitting in my sister's beautiful new remodeled kitchen. I'm staying here and have the house to myself since my sister and her family spent Christmas with my bro-in-law's family in the Bay Area and are all in Lake Tahoe over New Year's.

This house was my mom and dad's house until my mom passed away a couple of years ago and my dad moved into a townhouse a few months later. I had a really good talk last night with my brother about some resentments I was carrying towards my sister and how she acquired the valuable belongings in this house, many of which I had grown up with and had an attachment too, as well. My brother said that after my mother died, my dad totally "checked out" and left my sister to deal with and go through the ENTIRE house, which was filled to the brim with my mom's stuff (mom was sort of a closet hoarder, i.e. she threw nothing away but it was neatly and tightly packed in every drawer, closet, and cupboard of the house). I do remember my sister having to do this but didn't fully understand how my dad checked out.

Additionally, I didn't understand that he basically both gave her this task and said that she could take over the furnishings and items in the house. My sister and bro-in-law had bought the house from him (at a very good price I imagine), and he said everything in it, other than the furniture, dishes, and other items he took with him, was theirs. And, even though it's hurtful and I would have liked him to think of me, these are his items to give.

My sister did ask me to go through a bunch of items last Christmas and take what I wanted, but these were items she didn't want and were to be given away shortly after. These were not valuable items, but some I took because they had sentimental value. There are a few items I see as I walk around the house this week that I would love to have. I think I would feel a bit better if I had at least received the one jewelry item that was clearly mine to have - a shoe charm that represented me on a necklace she wore. Each child was represented by one shoe. My sister said she put it down for me in the stuff I went through, but I don't remember her telling me that, didn't find it, and, also, why would you put a valuable jewelry item in with everything else? I'm really sad that it seems like it's lost for good.

But talking through the way everything unfolded with my brother lessens the resentment I feel. I know it was a big burden on my sister AND my dad basically was the person to make the call and he gave everything to her. There are some things in life that are beyond our control. My dad has held a grudge against me since I made a couple of poor financial decisions about 15 or 20 years ago (yes, the man knows how to carry a grudge), so that likely played a role.

This grudge was the other part of the conversation with my brother that was valuable to me. Talking through my anger around it helped me further sort through what "Dad's stuff" and what was "my stuff," and how I still need to "take care of my side of the street" with regard to financial mistakes I made that my dad experienced as painful betrayals. So, I renewed my intention to fix these mistakes as best I can now, in the present, and my brother agreed to remind me of this intention. I am also writing this intention here in the blog so you all can bear witness and I can be reminded when I re-read this post.

I did have some quality time with Dad on Christmas. After spending Christmas eve and morning at my brother's with his family and my Dad and his girlfriend/partner, Mary, my brother and family left to spend the rest of the day with my sis-in-law's family in Corvallis. I went to the house where I'm staying and had a bit of a rest and a shower, then spent the rest of the day and evening at Mary's house with her and my Dad. There were a couple of difficult moment where I felt a little hurt at my Dad's responses, but for the most part it was a good time. We had some nice dinner conversation and shared laughter, I got to know Mary better, and we all watched part of a movie before calling it a night.

Yesterday, I got to soak up some love with my Aunt, Uncle, and cousin and family, talking about my adoption plans and my aunt's and cousin's experience of her adoption, as well as eating comfort food and doing a little craft with the kids. Then, I went to my brother's and made and decorated gingerbread men with my four-year-old cousin, V. Her attention span was pretty short but she managed to do a little mixing, roll the dough a bit, and decorate two cookies. :)

Also, to end on a super exciting note for me, my brother gave me a bunch of clothes and baby/toddler items to take home! He has two girls, but I did find some gender neutral clothing and also took a few cute girls dresses and shirts in case I am placed with a girl. He also gave me: a baby bjorn and the other kind of baby carrier (can't remember the name but one faces in and one faces out); a stroller good for a baby under one-year (so may or may not be useful but it's a nice stroller in which the seat rotates to face you or face out); a bouncy swing that fastens to a door frame; a little rocking horse and a scooter I used when I was little; and a bunch of toys, including an activity table and electronic pull-toy and music maker. He also gave me some bottles and bottle equipment.

It was so fun going through the clothing and choosing items to take with me. Even though placement will not happen for several months at the earliest, I am loving the preparation process! And it will be great to show my progress to the social worker on January 10th.


  1. It sounds like you had a busy holiday. I'm glad that spending time talking things over with your brother has lessened some of your negative emotions.

    1. Thanks, Nell! Yes, it was a good conversation.