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  • At some point in the 1990's, my mother became captivated by Maria Katzenbach's 1978 novel "The Grab", a tale of three sisters whose mother instructs them that upon her death they are to split up her belongings by taking turns choosing what they want as they make their way through her Washington DC apartment.

    And so upon our own mother's death years later, my siblings and I were similarly instructed. We were to draw straws to decide who would go first in each room, and in round-robin fashion use colored stickers to mark the items we chose. I believe that my mother presumed we would not feel obligated to divvy everything up, that much would get donated or discarded. She was not a big believer in sentiment, and tried hard to not feel weighed down by her own possessions. She had no desire to impose such a weight on us.

    But our mother had many things that we loved. Our version of "The Grab" just crystallized for each of us what tangible memories of her each of us was loathe to let go.

    Nonetheless, the method worked relatively well. I attempted to refrain from selecting anything that couldn't fit into a few cardboard boxes, but somehow still ended up with the needlepoint rocking chair that my grandmother had made. It is quite a piece, which plays a dual role in my living room as both a place to sit and a convenient storage spot for my daughter's violin.

    But the thing I ended up with that I marvel at daily is the Orange Comb. I can't quite remember how I came to be assigned to it--I do not think I put a sticker on it, nor do I think any of my other siblings expressed any desire for it. But somehow I got it.

    My mother was meticulous about the single braid she wove each morning in her beautiful long dark hair, often decorating the band holding the end of the braid with a pin or whimsical button. For as long as I can remember, her hair care implement of choice was the Orange Comb. I am not as careful with my hair as my mother was. Sometimes days go by without me running a comb through my tangled mop, but when I do, I use the Orange Comb.
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