I do realize that it is officially autumn for about a week now, and the holidays are storming down on us. But for the last several weeks, I have been engaged in a mega-spring-cleaning session. Go figure.
What prompted my activity was that my sister has moved. Thus, the glass-doored bookcase that she was storing for me since Mom died finally needed to get transported up to me. Now, to make room for the bookcase I had to move out an existing bookcase. Oh, I have enough books stacked on floors and shelves to warrant just accommodating a new bookcase or two—or three or four. But I have no more wall space to accommodate any additional bookcases.
Thus I started sorting, and sorting, and sorting. I finally adjusted to my decision to give away books from my first stint in graduate school—that’s over 30 years ago. Then I started looking at all the other books. Even though they were my books, did I need to store them if I were not reading them or even remembering they were there after so long? When I emptied one book case with deep shelves I was surprised to find a second row of books skulking behind the visible first row. Enough. I do not need to keep all my books. So now my Riverside edition of the complete works of Shakespeare is in a box waiting to go to a new owner! As are old composition texts and many, many novels and copies of classics. I just hope that in this world of Kindles and Nooks that some folks out there will welcome taking home some actual books.
Since I was boxing up the books and getting over the guilt about moving those friends on to other potential owners, I decided I would expand my review and sort through everything: jewelry, clothes, kitchen supplies, bedding, knick-knacks, more books of course, and even do-dads and what-nots. Thank goodness the Salvation Army will come pick up whatever I finally pull together. There are also a couple local shelters where I will share some of my things.
I am comforted through this process because I know my memories will stay just as clear and fresh as they are now (for a little while anyway), even if the items are not tucked away in a closet somewhere. I hope someone else will enjoy the many framed pictures and posters of windows that adorned every inch of the drab wall space of a former cubicle of an office that had no windows at all. I trust someone new will actually use the various serving trays and platters and three-tiered stands that graced my table years ago when I had crowds over for parties. There’s a huge dolly that used to cart my folding tables, chairs and displays around when I worked street fairs selling my photo-art cards and prints. It can help someone else lug things around now. But all those memories are still in place.
Of course, I am still keeping many items even if I do not use them regularly. About 20 years ago, an aunt gave me a plate she had received from her husband’s mother. I still have Grandma Mau’s plate, safely packed away. It holds good memories. So does some jewelry, like Mom’s charm bracelet even though some charms are missing, the shalom pendant I received from Pastor Clark on my confirmation, and a nice peace symbol necklace that I might even start wearing again. I will even hang onto a small batch of card stock and supplies in case I want to make some photo-art cards again. Of course, I cannot really get rid of very many of my elephant figurines. I will give away the VHS tapes of the old TV show The Avengers, but I will keep the wooden spin top, the Lost in Space robot figurine, and the energy chime that used to adorn my desk to help keep students (and faculty) amused.
Of course, the best thing I am hanging onto are the memories that are tied to everything, whether I am keeping the treasured item or not. There are the big memories of graduations and weddings and anniversaries and holidays and such. But the best memories are the everyday ones of just a typical day. Laughing with Mom over a charm she bought me for my charm bracelet or the good times taking pictures with Dad tied to my first 35 mm camera. Playing baby dolls with my sister when we were little, and Mom’s love and patience that were stitched into the handmade overcoat for that Tiny Tears doll. We lived in Chicago back then, so my baby doll really needed a warm coat!
Lots of travel memories have surfaced tied not only to photos from the various trips but also to the shells and rocks and other little pieces I picked up as I waded in the Colorado River, walked over the lava fields in Utah, or collected fossils on a biology field trip in Texas. Even though I no longer have my own rose bushes, I still remember how Mom would cut roses to display in a vase on the coffee table. I have not put up a full Christmas tree for years, but I still remember helping Dad pick out a tree and get the lights on it just so before we all started helping with placing the ornaments. The old dented blackened pot Mom always used to make popcorn for Dad has been gone for years, but it comes to mind every time I make popcorn, even in a microwave. There are some items I will keep no matter what. But I do not really need the mementoes. I have the memories regardless of what I keep and what I give away.
One item I uncovered captures the sense of nostalgia and memory that is surfacing for me since I have been tackling this project. It helps me remember that little everyday things are the best. It reminds me to cherish the ordinary, to look for connections to others, to pause and enjoy nature, and to give time to people no matter what. What I uncovered was a wall plague I vaguely remember really, really wanting when I was a teen. It hung on my wall for years, so Mom and Dad must have gotten it for me. It has been in a box for years—and will probably go back there, to be disposed of later. I like its message. What I unpacked is the poem “Normal Day” by Mary Jean Irion on a wooden plague. It is a message I hope to keep close to my heart as I continue making memories—and collecting stuff to sort and give away later.
In conclusion, I simply wish each of you the treasure of a normal day!