My grandmother Brown was in her eighties when she moved from Baltimore to live with us for the third time, because she had nowhere else to go. Neighbors helped my mother convert our garage into her bedroom, with a portable heater, and she was grateful. My grandma shipped her stuff in moving crates to Tiburon, and somehow at eleven years of age, I was in charge of unboxing, deciding values of things I knew nothing about.
Why did adults foist responsibilities like that on me?
I unpacked the boxes and wondered what about that old handmade cloth doll with two heads under a reversible dress, one white face with blonde hair, and the other brown face in a green bonnet? It looked as old as the Civil War. What worth was the French blue glass vase, or could I just give it to my friend? Do we keep the old dish with markings on the bottom? What do those markings mean, anyway?
I sorted South Carolina heirlooms and didn’t know what I was doing. My grandmother didn’t care about any of it, my mom wasn’t into helping unload those crates, and my father wasn’t around.