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.