Closet encloses a trove of memories for family members

I have always had a thing for closets, starting when I was a little girl.

Maybe it is because closets have a well-defined space, and we always think of them as a place to play and a safe place to hide. I love straightening out closets. In a short time, you can have everything in order and looking nice and neat.

It can bring such a feeling of accomplishment and a feeling of cleansing when you finally are able to part with things that are no longer as important as they once were. Many people are pack rats, holding on to things forever. Our things have a lot to say about our life and how we live it. A pretty dress we wore when we danced at a family wedding, the suit that was bought for a son's bar mitzvah.

The clothes we need for the special days in our lives as well as the every day clothes that we need to go to the grocery store in. Our closets hold little chachkas, memories we have brought back from our travels. Things we want to keep, but don't want to leave on display end up tucked away in the closet.

Years ago my in-laws remodeled their bedroom and enlarged their closet. I was asked to come help move all the clothes back into this wonderful new space. I came up to the house with packages and packages of new shiny, white, plastic hangers. The closet was going to be organized and crisp with everything easily accessible. We had such fun. I'm sure we laughed a lot that day. I even managed to convince them to give away a bunch of things that were too tired-looking and worn to be of use.

I remember getting a few phone calls weeks later asking where we put something. Once I even drove over to find the missing sweater or whatever it was.

When Adam was about to become a bar mitzvah (the first grandchild, and the only bar mitzvah Mom got to attend), I stood with Mom in the closet and picked out a pretty floral suit for the service and a flattering silk dress for the party. We went through all the possible shoes that would go, and we chose the right jewelry to complete both outfits. There is an intimacy that is shared when you stand in another's closet. It's hard to explain, but it's a special feeling. Mom loved to shop, and always showed me her new purchases. She often would model the outfits for me, wanting my opinion. We used to have so much fun!

When Mom was ill, I went through her things to find outfits that would be comfortable and appropriate for her changed body. I shopped and found new things to add to her wardrobe. It was important to me that she be able to maintain her dignity and look nice for her.

My sister-in-law Sherry and I stood in the closet together as we selected a dress to bury Mom in. A turquoise silk, one she wore often and looked pretty in. It was one of the last things I could help do for someone who gave me so much. I cleared out Mom's things from the closet not long after she died, and moved Dad's things in to help fill up the emptiness.

I remember standing in the closet with Dad on several occasions to help him select the right suit to wear for an event. Another time, we went over possible selections to take on a cruise for an in-law's birthday on the QE2.

Once after learning that I reorganized my husband, Rick's, closet, Dad asked for a little help with his suits. I brought him clear suit covers to make it easier to see. I had a good chuckle when a week or so later, I saw six of the covers outside covering the cushions to the patio set!

It's funny when you realize how something as mundane as a closet can hold so many emotions. Four walls really can hold so many personal and private things. There have been so many times when I've been at the house since Dad died that I have stood in his closet hoping to feel his presence. I've tried to breathe in his special smell and pretend that he was just in the next room. As I begin the job of cleaning out this closet once again, it will be a way to say goodbye to Dad and to remember lots of wonderful memories.