This almost empty travel shampoo bottle occupied the windowsill in my shower for over a year and a half. I moved it to clean but couldn’t bring myself to throw it away (truth be told, I still can’t — it’s now in my bathroom cabinet).
Why? Because my mother left it in my shower the last time she came to visit. At first I told myself I’d throw it out the next time I cleaned. Then the weeks stretched into months and it was still there. It’s admittedly silly, but parting with this damn shampoo bottle has been harder than donating some of mom’s jewelry, or tossing original photographs after I digitized them.
Sue and I never discussed it, but somehow she must have known I would freak out if it was gone because she never tossed it either when it was her turn to clean the shower.
A few weeks ago I did the math and figured that nineteen months was probably long enough and I threw it in the trash. Ten minutes later I fished it out and stuck it in the cabinet.
My counselor says there is no time clock on grief — it doesn’t just end one day after a predetermined amount of time. Nineteen months or nineteen years — it can still knock you off your feet.
I can’t decide if my mom would be amused or perturbed by this strange little keepsake. I know she was never a fan of shrines — which is essentially what it became in my shower for a time. But I think she might find the idea that I’ve kept it because she inadvertently left it behind sort of touching. She could be pretty sentimental herself about some things. I remember once while I was helping her clean her house we were listening to Lacy J Dalton singing “Tennessee Waltz.” It wasn’t really music my mom liked but since I was helping her she let me choose the playlist. I walked into the living room and found her in tears. When I asked what I had said or done she said that I hadn’t done anything — it was the song. It was her and her first husband’s “song.” She hadn’t heard it in years, but it took her back to high school and their time together before he died.
Time doesn’t erase grief it merely changes it. It smooths the rough edges (at least some of them). It makes it so memories can be sweet reminders rather than painful digs. It makes it so a shampoo bottle can be hidden in a cabinet and one day, it will make it okay to throw it away.