Your stuff. It’s just stuff, right?
When my father sold the house I grew up in I discovered that many of my old albums had mildewed in the basement. My 45 of Matthew Wilder’s “Break my Stride” was ruined. The notes passed between friends in seventh grade math class. They were illegible.
A lifetime of stuff was left behind with my marriage. Letters to and from my ex-husband, photographs of the almost ten years we’d spent together. The kitchen table that had been in the dining room of the home I grew up in.
But it was stuff. Just stuff.
I moved out of my home at the beach between Thanksgiving and Christmas, 2007. I took all the pieces of my heart, my little girl and my Snoopy and I moved. And I made a new home. In that home was what was important. A lot of love. And my books. And my shoes. And my Snoopy.
Books and shoes are not “just stuff.” They are my Things.
When I was a kid I had a terrible perm. And buck teeth. And then I had braces. And another less terrible perm. And then I got bigger and I had straight teeth and no perm.
Time passed and lots of things changed but two things always stayed the same.
I have had a bookshelf in my home. I have had size 10 feet and fantastic shoes.
In that bookshelf I have had every play I have ever been in, all of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Once and Future King, Shel Silverstein and quite a few Nancy Drews. On that shelf somewhere was a secret book safe that my mother made. It held the key to my diary, a letter to a boy that never knew how much I loved him. I have had more than a few pairs of flip flops, two pairs of combat boots, a couple of pairs of Chucks and some grown up shoes. And my first pair of Doc Martens.
I went to college an overachiever and decided I felt more at home behind the bar. I got married and divorced and married again.
I was enrolled and unenrolled in college, engaged and less than engaged in studying. The plays, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Nancy Drews… they made friends with the feminist theory books, and the Buddhism texts and then they all made friends with the breastfeeding and nutrition books. The book safe held a dime bag, Jer’s wedding band, a lock of Emily’s hair. The combat boots and the Frankenstein-like platform shoes made friends with the Dansko clogs and the Birks. The hundreds of pairs of flip flops.
And again, lots of things changed but some things stayed the same.
When you talk about a person you might say “Oh… well the thing about her is…” and you describe an attribute that defines them. I don’t know what that would be for me. I think “the thing about me” for a long, long time has been my Things. Not my Stuff. Just my things, my books and my shoes. At least it was to me.
And then this week our offer was accepted on a house. And suddenly we would be moving in to a new home. A home where our family of three would become a family of four. And I started to look around our house … imagining what I would pack. And I realized maybe I didn’t need my Things. Maybe my Things were just Stuff.
Before I could stop myself I bagged up more then half of my books to donate to the library. Romance novels, mysteries, biographies, paper backs and the like. I kept a box of my childhood books, the Louisa May Alcott, Ramona Quimby, Age 8. I kept the plays, because you can’t just go get them at the library. I kept a small assortment of sentimental books, the e.e. cummings we used in our wedding, the tattered copy of On the Road and The Beat Reader that I carried around with my composition book from coffeehouse to coffeehouse as a youth.
Even the books I kept, I think most of them will find their way in to the attic for safe keeping. I don’t think I need them to be on display, to somehow demonstrate who I am. I laughed and told MQD that since I am both married and knocked up I must not have much need to live by John Waters decree “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em!”
After I packed up the books I went outside to the laundry room that houses my stash of shoes. MQD poked his head out at one point “Whatcha doing?”
“I just got rid of more than half my god damned books, I might as well go through my shoes.” He smartly said “Do you wanna be alone?”
My Doc Martens. With their alphabet shoelaces. And the paint from some kind of scenery circa 1992. When they closed Commander Salamander in Georgetown a few years ago I was glad I still had my Docs. But this past weekend I decided a picture was enough. I didn’t need to save them forever.
For the last few days I have wondered if getting rid of my Things meant Something. Did I no longer believe that I was defined by my possessions? Did I ever believe that was so? Did I not want to move my Past in to the home that will become my Future?
Or is it simpler than that? A mother of one can keep her head above water and still manage her piles of crap. A working mother of two might be smart to have less shit.
In a few short weeks we will move into our home. Me. My husband. Emily & Fisher. Snoopy. The baby. And just a few Things. No Stuff at all.
“And that’s all I need… what do you think I am, some kind of jerk or something…”