Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning
Spring Cleaning – all housewives used to do it – not the cleaning lady or the contracted cleaning firm but moms – and my Mom was no exception. And by God, when Mom cleaned house, she really cleaned house.

Once while my dad was at work, she sold his Kimball electric organ without his permission – permission?!? Hell, without his knowledge! To his dying day, he never did get over it.

And when I graduated from college in 1974, I entered a bedroom, void of furniture. Apparently, Mom found it necessary to sell the whole outfit. Maybe it was a hint to leave the nest, or maybe Mom just was in one of her spring house-cleaning modes. Whatever the reason, I slept on the couch in the rec room that entire summer until I found employment in the fall.

Yep, Mom was a house cleaner – got rid of anything she felt wasn’t being used. Funny thing though, we never noticed HER items disappearing.

“Don’t worry,” mom said. “I went through your drawers and kept everything you would have wanted,” she reassured me. I wished that was true. Because in the box with my mementos, my baseball card collection was not to be found.

It was not a large collection. About 3 inches thick, it was bound with an old rubber band and it grew ever so slowly in my drawer since I was about six years old. The card on top and the most notable part of that collection was non-other than a Roberto Clemente rookie card. At least a handful of other friends have told me a similar story about a valuable card that vanished, but I have some doubts as to their authenticity – but this story is as much reality as I am. A ROBERTO CLEMENTE ROOKIE CARD!

Mom had done it again. This time though, she combined her passion of spring house cleaning with a newly discovered interest, garage sales. And as if to make a peace offering, she handed me a jar containing my share of the proceeds from that first garage sale. I admit – I was momentarily pacified. But, only momentarily! In that jar were a couple of bucks and some loose change. My face told the story.

“What’s wrong?” mom asked. “Where’s the money from the card collection?” I snapped. “It’s in there,” she said. To get the items to move in that first sale, it was apparent Mom didn’t want to ask too much for them. “I priced that stack of cards at a quarter,” Mom said cheerfully. “And the first customer that stopped bought them.”

You see, before there were moms that knew the value of baseball cards, there were moms that cleaned house. Before there were garage sales, there were attics and drawers filled with keepsakes. And before there were kids who returned home from college with intentions of staying on a while, there was a graduate who came home to his house and found no bedroom furniture, no organ music and NO CLEMENTE ROOKIE CARD.

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA