What To Hold Onto

1392016072Earlier this week, my wife said, “Honey, we need to get something out of the storage locker.”

Look the phrase up in your handy Wife-Husband Dictionary and see what it yields.

I will help you out, it means: “Let’s work on your hernia.”

Allow me to explain.

Last year, a certain couple I know, but hesitate to identify, moved from a 1,000 square foot house to a house twice that size.  At the same time, they sold their 1,000 square foot condo. Logic might suggest that the move would be easy because 1,000 square feet + 1,000 square feet equals 2,000 square feet – but that would be wrong.

You need to consider the physics of moving.

Before contemplating the consolidation of households, consider the basic make-up of the universe. Three quarters of all matter exists in a state that physicists call “dark” which means you cannot see it.

Subconsciously you know you own things like a fishing boat, a lawn-mower and a weed-whacker.  You also might realize that you own a shed full of gardening tools, a swing-set and a fleet of bicycles — but none of this dark stuff reveals itself until the last U-Haul load.

Wait, that is not quite true.

Like a distant galaxy unveiled through the multiple sensing systems of the Hubble Telescope, your household goods will reveal themselves slowly over the course of packing. Upon moving the bed, you discover all the boxes and shrink-bags hidden underneath. After disassembling the desk in the home office you find that you cannot maneuver the sections through the palisades of stuff that have been accumulated over the years. Then it dawns on you — the palisades themselves must be moved.

Next comes the issue of the third garage stall, followed by the crawl spaces and the storage room in the basement.

You suddenly realize that you have a ridiculous amount of junk.

So you decide to make a stand.  You grab the nearest item, an old pair of rotted hiking boots, full of holes and mouse turds, and turning angrily toward your spouse, you shout, “Why do we hang onto crap like this?”

Her eyes go wide and well up with tears. Her lower lip quivers.  You strain to realize why she is upset but your mind is more of a junk pile than your house.

“You don’t remember do you? she asks.

You don’t.

She explodes into tears and collapses on the floor sobbing, “it’s…it’s….it’s.”

And then you recall everything about those boots.

The scent and sights rise with the memory: orange blossoms and salt-spray. A white hot sun, the red roofs and white walls. A beach on an island where one night, someone walked off with a pair of shoes belonging to a friend of a friend.

You didn’t know her that well and what you did know you weren’t excited about – but there she was without shoes. Neither of you had much but you took what money you had and bought her a pair of hiking boots.

It was the first gift you gave her and it is what made you a couple.

And for a moment, you forgot.

There was nothing you could say to repair the situation.  So you became humble and silent and arranged for a storage locker to hold all the stuff. Now here you are – a year later, wrestling a square wheeled cart down a narrow concrete aisle.

The cart keeps lurching to the left, and it’s bone dry bearings chirp in octaves pitched for maximum agony — as the love of your life walks ahead, puzzled and perplexed.

“Was this the row?”

“Or is it the next?”

You know not to say a word.

You know eventually she will find the locker on her own and when you lift the door, in accordance with the laws of locker physics, all the heavy items will have worked themselves to the front and the thing she wants will be tucked against the far wall.

You shake you head and ponder how that happens but not for long; you have heavy lifting to do. You have only one role here, to gently shift aside the memories and dreams that lay between her and what she wants.

You will move your old racing bike. The one you rode through the cool summer fog of Saturday mornings with the buddies you haven’t seen in decades.

You will sift through the boxes of the clothes that one day might fit again.

You will carefully move aside the bins of china dolls earmarked for the grand-daughters when they are old enough to appreciate them.

You will rest a while…then move the books that marked the evenings of your lives.

And then, a little off to the left, you will spot a pair of boots, tossed angrily against the back wall of the storage locker and you will remember how heartbreakingly beautiful that young girl was so many years ago, and how angry she was with the man who was once the boy who bought her a pair of hiking boots.


Author: Almost Iowa


33 thoughts on “What To Hold Onto”

  1. This is a love letter if ever I’ve read one. Really. This is a beautiful piece of writing.

    Now, to all that stuff. Yesterday my microwave stopped working. I determined this after pulling a bowl of cold oatmeal from therein. Then I remembered the microwave we purchased for our son two summers ago when he was interning in Rochester. Did we keep it or donate it? I began digging through the closet, pulling out totes and boxes until, yes, there it was, buried under a blanket. Once in awhile the stuff we keep proves it was worth saving. Just like those boots.

    1. I like writing love letters about couples who nag, offend, make-up, dance around each other, haul heavy things… and grumble. It’s the stuff of life. If you can still love after doing all those things, then you are in love. 🙂

      Austin has a wonderful place to donate things like that. It is called the ReStore and is affiliated with Habitat For Humanity.

  2. There are always these little treasures in your pieces, Greg: Descriptions constructed and phrases coined by you which are so apt that they could easily become memes (lazy of me to use that word–too bad) for future writers: Cargo palisades, locker physics… One would think you do a lot of thinking and planning before writing, but given your turnaround time:

    “Eh–not so much. I whack pieces out between jaws and chaws.” (a spitting sound is heard)

    1. “One would think you do a lot of thinking and planning before writing, but given your turnaround time:”

      I owe it all to my dog.

      Scooter requires a daily six mile run/walk to maintain his thin veneer of sanity and whilst he leaps and bites at his leash (for the entire journey), I am free to fantasize.

      But beyond that, I have been writing humor essays for five years, which gives me a deep well of subjects to refactor.

      “Eh–not so much. I whack pieces out between jaws and chaws.” (a spitting sound is heard)”

      That is what I do with “The Journal That Will Never Be Read”. I pound out a minimum of 1,000 words at a sitting in free-form, just to limber up each day. It is an amazing way to kick loose the thoughts that cling to the cobwebs of my mind – and also serves as a deep and rich well of material.

      1. Poor Scooter! He has to stay on leash for the entire trip?! You are so MEAN! (Come visit me, Scooter: I am such a softie, being dog-deprived, I’ll let you run all over the place, breaking city and county laws. I’ll even point out a few prime shoot-and-Scoot targets for you. I scratch your back, you scratch a handful of folks who have it coming. Deal?)

        So, you credit healthy living and discipline. I’ll consider trying those. Right after I get finished with my daytime nap after this half-all-nighter I just pulled.

  3. You nearly lost me at dark matter. I thought you were going well over my head. But what a great ride. I tell my kids to just implode the walls on me when I go. I am never moving. Greg, your blog is my don’t miss! Thanks…

    1. I nearly get lost in dark matter myself. It gets pretty thick in the home office and sometime I make a wrong turn on the way to my desk; it costs me hours.

      Mark, your blog is in my essentials list. I try to model much of my writing on yours. You may not know it but you are my mentor.

  4. Oh Boy! I’m shaking my head! Started to eye the floor to ceiling, side to side storage bins in the garage, and 5 outside storage cabinets! The move isn’t for another 3 years, but I know the start sorting, throwing out or giving away needs to happen now. I’m okay with that, but significant other hubby’s like your wife! BTW…clever writing always! Christine

  5. Not hoarding; just remembering with visual aids. Some friends of ours are downsizing and had a garage sale. Every item we touched came with story attached, and some, after the sharing of stories, were returned to the house instead of the sale.

    1. That is why it is hard to throw things away, they hold stories. I have a t-shirt commemorating a five mile swim challenge. It is fifteen years old – but how could I throw that away?

  6. You do know there is another law of physics you forgot. It’s called the law of vacuum. If you have an empty space in your new house, eventually something will fill it. It is an unbreakable law.

    1. I totally agree. The law is stated as, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” It is most prevalent in politics, whenever power is created, a force will rise up to seize it. It works on budgets too, whenever a penny is left on the table, constituencies will dive over each other to grab it.

  7. Awww so sweet in a ‘that’s so real’ way. Hoarding vs storing, the logistics of moving, the arrangements in new spaces – emotional triggers in most couples, I’m sure!

    Underneath your crust, you’re a romantic!

    1. I’ve been working on the palisades in the new place. Right now, I am laying down the base by covering everything with a layer of hardcover books. In the months to come, I will stack paperbacks then top it off with a layer of newspapers and magazines…. Once I have that, I will frost the pile with PostIt notes.

      1. We, that is, my husband, uses a modular method. The books and other purchases (40 pairs of socks, because, you know, a $1 a pair at liquidation) are stored in plastic bins, stacked floor to ceiling. We’ve (that’s the husband and wife “we” meaning “I” have been threatening to consolidate (read: eliminate) for years. But who wants to devote an entire day or more in the damp, dark basement sorting through mothball stinky stuff?

        1. I’ve considered the modular method but it looks too easy to undo. I strive for the permanence that only true chaos can give. 🙂

  8. Awhhh! 🙂 So sweet – you will have those moments – but only because the love is so strong! I love how you refer to your wife as the heartbreakingly beautiful young girl. My eyes are a little damp 🙂

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