The Case of My Missing Mother-In-Law, or a Tale of Wandering Cremains

Many years ago, right after I was sucked into the Beanie Baby craze, my husband purchased a beautiful curio cabinet for me. Once it became apparent that Beanie Babies were an incurable addiction (by the sheer number of the little bean-bagged critters) I moved the “collection” into plastic tubs. A few thousand Beanie Babies now take up space in a room in my basement. One good thing about plastic tubs, is that they stack up very easily.

In the meantime, I put my other collection into the curio cabinet, which is located in my living room. When I was a teenager, I was very much into collecting elephants. (I’ll still pick up an elephant now and then, if it strikes my fancy.) There are also some fancy knickknacks which I’ve inherited from different sources. When my dear Mr. Demonic started collecting wines, he also started collecting vintage and unusual corkscrews, so we keep them there as well. The cabinet has a key, but we haven’t locked it since my son lost the original key and I had to go back to the furniture store to get another. Besides, most of the items are sentimental in value and aren’t worth a ton of money. Truth be told, not much in the house is worth anything, except maybe the piano.

When my mother-in-law passed away about nine years ago, the family had her cremated. The ashes were divided three ways among the three surviving children. In Mr. Demonic’s case, the funeral director put his share of the ashes into three mini-urns, one for him, and one for each of my children. I guess these urns were sample urns that were given to the home from the salesperson selling them the urns. I imagine that it’s much like they used to do in the real olden days when traveling salesmen would show miniature stoves to their customers and they would order from the cute little model. The urns were made of a green jade and came in a crushed purple velvet-lined box of three. It was quite attractive.

When we came home from the funeral, I put my mother-in-law’s cremains into my curio cabinet, along with some antique toys of hers which we inherited. It was kind of weird to have her there, but hey, what the heck? It’s my living room, but we don’t actually live in it. Most of our action occurs in the combination kitchen-breakfast nook-family room, not in the formal living room. It’s not like Mr. Demonic and I were having sex in there with his mother watching.

The other day, I happened to look into the cabinet, and noticed a bare spot. This is highly unusual because the cabinet was jammed full of the artifacts that is our life. I couldn’t figure out what was missing. Two shelves are devoted to elephants and two devoted to corkscrews. The rest is arranged by grouping. (For example, I have some small statuary from Greece together, and antique toys from my childhood that my sister bought me to replace ones that had become lost, along with photos taken of me with those toys.)

This huge space was somewhat annoying to me. I couldn’t figure out what wasn’t there.

That is, until yesterday. I realized that that rectangular shape was where the box containing my mother-in-law’s ashes were. It’s completely gone!

My husband denies moving them, and I believe him. He never goes into the living room at all. I don’t think he could name any of the furniture in there. My daughter thought it was weird that the urns were gone. She travels through the living room to the sun room where her computer is, but doesn’t stop (thankfully) long enough to make a mess in the living room. My son definitely didn’t do it, since he’s in San Francisco.

I’ve had other items disappear from the house, including five swords, a canvas I had painted in 1978 and a book of my poetry. I want to believe it’s not the person who is cleaning my house, or the bug-man. These are the two people with keys to the house.

To have three small urns full of human remains disappear, well, that just takes the cake.

I don’t know. I’m still shaking my head.

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7 Responses

  1. That’s … really strange. You reminded me of a friend of mine who kept her mother’s ashes on the mantelpiece, in a cheesy wine bottle shaped like a fish. “My mother would have hated this thing — it’s so tacky,” she said to me once.

    I thnk there were some unresolved issues there.

  2. Someone has stolen a miniature jade urn of your mother-in-law’s ashes from a curio cabinet in your living room?

    I have no idea how to adequately convey the expression on my face right now…

  3. You should ask your cleaning lady, “Do you know what happened to my mother-in-law’s ashes that were in the little rectangular box that was right here?” And watch her face carefully.

  4. Make sure everyone who spends any time in your home knows what was in those urns. Maybe they will reappear.

  5. Spooky. My house could be haunted. The woman who cleans my house has been doing it for years. My mother-in-law was in the other house too, right in the same spot. I’ve never had any disappearances from the old house.

  6. Obviously my ghost took it. You remember my ghost, don’t you? Duh.

  7. Is it possible that the cleaning lady had someone else with her on one of her visits and that they took it? I know I had some things go missing when my house cleaning lady (ages ago) brought her sister with her so they could finish the job faster.

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