“Brendan will come get them, he’ll graduate in a few months” Mom coaxed as she pushed the boxes through the front door with her foot, one after the other. “My new place is too small and you have this huge house, you won’t even notice they’re here.” The tone in her voice revealed that she sincerely believed that to be true, which was ridiculous.
We had argued in the past about Dan, how she thought he was controlling and humorlessly rigid, but like Brendan and my sisters she didn’t pass judgements or keep grudges, and it ruined her short term memory for character defects.  It was the same when Uncle John wouldn’t show up for Christmas or something and I would have to remind her that he was a binge-drinker and unreliable at best.  She would get disappointed every time, like she forgot about it.  I had learned how to live around Dan, but she hadn’t, or she wouldn’t have been standing on our stoop with three boxes.
We loaded them into a basement closet, empty but for some powdered laundry detergent standing on the bottom shelf making the cavernous space smell like a sweet, snowy blast of perfume. I placed the wrinkled, brown cubes carefully right up against it, using as little space as possible.  Dan preferred pristine, clean surfaces everywhere, even the shelves of the refrigerator were sparse and orderly, milk on the right, juice on the left, no more than two vegetables in the drawer at any time. The tip of Brendan’s bronze baby shoe poked out from one corner of the folded cardboard, as if a metal child had fallen in face first and gotten stuck. I pushed it down and pressed it closed, hiding the contents.
When Brendan came to get everything some time later there were a few more items scattered here and there in the closet – a hockey stick leaning against the wall, a pile of file folders and an old humidifier – but otherwise everything was the same. Except for the boxes. They were gone. The old patches from Wendy’s jeans we had laughed about, the autograph books from middle school filled with pledges to stay friends forever, the yearbooks and tassels from our graduation caps. They were gone and I knew immediately that Dan had tossed them into the garbage like old leaves or fish guts. I didn’t know why, but what did it matter? It was done.  And anyway, what should I do, divorce him because he threw away some old report cards and science fair trophies?
The spot they had occupied was empty, even the dust had been blown away and smoothed clean. Brendan stepped all the way into the space, turning in a circle, checking every corner.  He looked expectantly at me like there was a secret panel I would remove, revealing the childhood tokens, safe and sound.
“He’s just really focused, he likes things the way he likes them…” I tried to interject, but Wendy didn’t leave a nanosecond between her words to let me in.  My sister’s voice had become a high-pitched squeal of accusation, the words melting together into rage lava pouring through the receiver. I rolled my eyes. It was Dan she was mad at, why was she yelling at me?
“Yes, we have a lot of room, and Dan likes to keep it that way. He doesn’t like clutter….” Wendy pounced on my word choice like a cat, her voice cracking in incredulity.
“My diary was in that box, Evelyn, from the fifth grade. Dad’s letters. The pictures from the lake. You think that’s clutter?”  When she first called she had sounded like she was crying. But now she was angry, her voice getting lower and calmer and scarier.

“He doesn’t like things dirty” I shot back, defensive, “you should have seen how dusty they were.  And Grandma’s quilt was so musty you could smell it all over the house.”

“The quilt too?” Wendy shrieked.

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