It’s a cool, cloudy Saturday in December. There’s the potential for rain, and for clear skies. Some of us are up and already buttering toast at 7.17am, while some have decided on second thoughts today is not a workout day and wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone brought me a cup of tea right about now?
It’s early December and there’s much to think about: high school applications, the pants he needs for the wedding, pink ballet tights for next week’s Secret Nutcracker concert. Hopefully he makes it through the weekend with the pokey wire from his braces, definitely order dreidels for the Chanukah presentations, and now Pretzel is doing downward dog which means he needs to go out, so I guess I’ll get up and make my own tea.
And then through the open window I hear it. The scraping, muffled sound of boxes being pushed, dragged, stacked. An occasional huff. A very big puff. Oh. No. He’s clearing out the garage. Again.
(Please note I said clearing with an r, not cleaning with an n. When I noted that he was cleaNing the garage, he shot back with so much indignant vehemence that the garage is so spotless we could eat off the floor, I quickly recalibrated my word choice!)
The garage is his pride. And burden. An ongoing year-round project. Spring clean, summer clean, autumn and winter. And a few times in between. A free-standing structure at the end of the driveway, it’s large enough for a car and a minivan, a few bikes along the walls, three skateboards in the corner and a bunch of sports equipment neatly organized down the middle.
He is proud that he keeps it clean – I mean clear – enough that we can park our cars behind its black doors and not in the driveway every night. But we are six people living and growing out of clothes, soccer cleats, baseball bats, scooters, bikes faster than we can figure out what to do with it all. Did I mention the few dozen bins of girl and boy clothes tidily stacked floor to ceiling? The cars do fit in the garage, but the minivan driver may have almost flattened at least one of those bins, on more than one occasion. Luckily Boys Size 7-8 are soft and flattenable, even if the bin isn’t.
It’s a cool, maybe-rainy December day and there is so much to think about, plan for, take care of and definitely no time to clear out the garage – again – but that’s exactly where he is, again, and of course he needs me in there with him. Not to sort or organize or lift or unpack. That’s his one-man show and he’s brilliant at it. What he needs from me is to definitively say, right here and right now: Get rid of it!
Yes, get rid of the bins labeled 6-12, 18-24, 2T/3T. There are no more babies for this house. Yes, toss that box of fabric paint circa 1998. Paint does not last forever, and certainly not long enough for your paint muse to finally pay a visit almost two decades later. And hell yes definitely throw out the cassettes from the 80s, because a) there is no way to play them here in the future and b) they’re from the 80s and this is the future.
I find my Drama and Journalism binders from university, the contents outdated and irrelevant, my handwriting unchanged. I gingerly leaf through barely-held-together high school scrapbooks, precious photos, movie ticket stubs, birthday cards painstakingly placed on each page. Yellowed, aging memories slide out and spill into my lap as I sit on that spotless garage floor, the 20-year-old glue not so adhesive anymore. There’s a journal from camp, lines filled with writing I don’t recognize: “Dear Nix, I hope all your dreams come true.” The sweetest, sappiest notes from friends-for-eva who I vaguely remember and some I will never forget.
Part of me really wants to clear out the garage as much as he does. To be able to open my car door and not bump into a bicycle, not collide with a bin full of clothes or pop yet another basketball as I reverse.
But I can’t. I can’t throw any of it away. I can’t get rid of it. Not the baby clothes we have no need for anymore, but a nephew might. Not the old-fashioned cassettes (I labeled one of those “Slow Mix.” It must’ve taken me hours to make!), and definitely not the scrapbooks and journals. To read and remember my teen self is awkward, great, painful and wonderful all at once. Like floating on perfect ocean swells, and then suddenly getting tumbled and dumped by a frothy surprise wave that leaves my eyes burning, my nose running and my bathing suit disheveled just enough to reveal a little too much for a moment.
I don’t think of myself as a keeper of things. I love to pare down, de-clutter, and hang on to only what we need and use. But these childhood things that we’ve brought with us halfway around the world, schlepped from apartment to rental and finally to this house where we’ve created our family and our big grown-up life are the things that tell the story of me. And keeping those things, that story, feels way more important than an empty garage.
I grab my phone to take a photo of those old cassette tapes.
“There is not enough storage to take a photo,” it says. “You can manage your storage blah blah blah.”
This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt,”If they made a reality show about my life, it would be called…” Hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee and Stephanie from Mommy, for Real, and guest hosts Michelle from Crumpets and Bullocks and April from 100lb Countdown.
Nicki! So classic that your phone didn’t have room to take a photo of the stuff taking up room in your garage!! I finally got rid of most of my cassette tapes but still have some records because well I dunno… and I most definitely have all of my scrapbooks, photos, concert tickets…. and I adore the way you described remembering your teen self being like floating on the ocean. Beautiful! xxoo
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you Kristi. So much.
Don’t throw away the records! A friend of mine just bought the most awesome 21st century record player, complete with USB and burning functionality, and he rescued all his old records and bought some new ones (who knew Imagine Dragons was available on a record!) and it’s amazing.
Thank you for calling me an FTSF slacker and getting me to notice this experience as more than just a hideous weekend chore :).
(Ryan just told me my post has inspired him to do more today – HEELLP!)
Oh so so so refreshing. You need to see my “storage” room. Chalk a block full of treasures. Treasures that are only treasures to me. My daughter has come up with a strategy. She peeks into the boxes and determines what to keep and what to donate and what to trash. It works for me. I can’t regret what I don’t remember. She’s good – knows that I want to keep her and her brother’s stuffies from way back. Knows that I don’t need to keep crushed, never used, never will be used by me paper dinner napkins etc. And may I say that I have seen that “Cannot Take Photo” photo on my own phone OH SO MANY TIMES as well …
Kelly I love that: I can’t regret what I don’t remember.
I am laughing at the paper dinner napkins – that’s exactly the kind of thing I find stashed in corners. My husband also presented me with my writing paper and sticker collection from elementary school! It must be 30 years old and has traveled to three countries :). Your daughter sounds like a gem – mine is a definite hoarder.
And the phone thing is a real problem – can’t bear to delete those stories-in-photos!
Oh my gosh, I too love the the description of what happens in the ocean as a metaphor for remembering your teen self. Brilliant.
I like to portray a clutter free life, and I do on the main floor of my house, but the truth is I have a basement and, well, you know. I’m always trying to thin things out, but I confess I have three newly (this year, anyway) organized bins of cassette tapes. And I know I should get rid of that bin full of random stuff from my high school exchange year in Sweden (like I really need a Swedish rolling pin signed by all my classmates?) but I can’t do it yet! I’m working up to it. So I feel the attachments you describe.
Sometimes I wish I lived in a yurt so I didn’t have room for all this stuff…
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes! Less room, less stuff :). But stuff is what makes us us. And the Swedish rolling pin is JUST the thing to keep!
I don’t think of myself as a keeper of things either, but I understand the desire to hold onto things that feel like a part of us. I love how you take us from a mundane morning to the essence of who we are: our memories and our connections. And btw, that window kept showing up on my phone, so I just bought more iCloud storage!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Tempted to buy more storage, Dana, but I would rather clear out my photo stream. Do I need nine photos of the first lost tooth? But who am I kidding… never gonna happen!