My parents would not argue with the fact that they were pack rats. We had a family of seven. As someone else, in Cardiogirl's comments, observed: anytime there are a large number of children, there is an accumulation of things, papers, etc. Because my parents were Salvation Army officers, we were moved to a new location every two to three years and with every move we seemed to have more boxes accumulating in the next houses' garage. It was a problem, but we were always too strapped for time to go through the painful process of sorting and pitching. I know they tried. We always had garage sales. Sadly, I think they still are trying to sort through the years of accumulation.
My sister, on the other hand, runs a very tight ship and I have never really seen clutter in her home. My brothers all married women who are more organized and try to keep them organized (I know they, too, struggle with the "piles on the kitchen table problem." But, as much as I wish I had less clutter, I really love looking at the things I have saved over the years.
This short visit was a case in point. While my sons were playing in the basement, I noticed several boxes under the pool table labeled "J & W's things." I found a wonderful set of glass bowls which we received as a wedding present in 1990. I meant to bring them home. I forgot. The other things in the boxes were really cool. One box contained my old clanging cymbals monkey. A small jewelry box contained my Salvation Army epulets from The Oakbrook Terrace Corps (I suppose the reason this is so cool is that 20 years after removing those epulets, my oldest brother and his wife are now stationed as the corps officers at that corps). It also contained several key-chains my parents bought me - one from Disney World and one of a double decker bus, from their first trip to London. I found an adorable macrame insect. I don't remember what friend made it for me, but my MS fell in love with it and promptly absconded with it, quickly breaking off the eyes - groan.
I didn't continue to dig through the boxes, but thought I really must head back this summer and reclaim my things from their house. I know they are trying to declutter. They asked my husband if they could throw out our two bikes hanging in the garage. My husband said, "Sure." I chimed in, "Oh, could we bring them here?" My ES could ride the men's bike and I'd like to keep my bike. I'm sure there were inward groans, but outwardly they were very gracious. Then, I waxed nostalgic and said, "Remember when we didn't have kids and a visit to your parents meant long, leisurely bike rides over the country roads (once we even got lost)." My ES does actually need a ten-speed. However, I already have a different bike, so I should let them dispose of my old one that I kept there.
Then, after the boys had gone to bed, I peeked in the upstairs closet. I saw my wedding dress. I was hanging on to that in case I had a girl. I guess that's something I could try to sell on e-bay. Another box held all my music trophies and awards. Inside this box, I found my HS diploma and a plastic bag full of letters which friends of mine sent during the year prior to that graduation. Those letters were especially important because they carried me through a very difficult time.
You see, my parents were moved from Chicago to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, just prior to my senior year of HS. Up until now, it was the most difficult move of my life. I left behind my instrument, a class rank of 5th out of several hundred, a host of very good friends, a youth band I was privileged to travel with, and two brothers (one remained in Chicago and the other headed off to Asbury College in Kentucky).
I pulled out and read almost every letter in the bundle. Several times, I came close to tears. Many of these correspondents are still friends (several of them still go to the Oakbrook Terrace Corps). The letters were full of encouragements to hang in there. They held gossip (who was dating who). They held scripture verses. They held love and sympathy (many were also officer's kids and used to having their lives uprooted from time to time). They let me know that I had a host of people supporting me, even though I felt very lonely (I had five study halls a day and spent all of my time reading. One of my few classes was an independent reading class and I remember that I completed the assigned semester's worth of pages within the first two or three weeks.)
I tucked the letters into my luggage and headed to bed. I was sleeping in my husband's boyhood room, which contains two twin beds and a crib. My ES was already fast asleep in the bed next to me and was facing me. I couldn't fall asleep. Not only was my mind full of all those bits and pieces of my past, but it was now full of bits and pieces of my ES's past.
I stared at him. He is so tall and lank now (especially after losing 10 lbs. in wrestling). His body fills out the entire bed, even though I remember when he was in the crib. Where did all that time go? How did he get so big? Will I cling to little momentos from his childhood, trying to hold him back from leaving my nest?
I am knee-deep in the process of getting rid of the baby things. No more need to hang on. No just-in-case. We are done. What cannot be sold at the children's resale shop will go to the Crisis Pregnancy Center. I have already made several trips (and my husband is SO GRATEFUL!). I even took a photo of a toy I hated to part with.
I know that I keep way too many things. For example, when we lived in an apartment in DeKalb, we discovered that the gal across the hall grew up in Sioux Falls, SD. One night, I said, "Hey, you should come over and visit because I have all of the HS newspapers from the year I went to school there." She was blown away. She had a great time seeking out names and faces of people she knew. She now has four children, so I know she wouldn't have wanted to hang on to those newsletters, but I probably should have tried to pawn them off on her (I didn't even like that school or know many people, since I spent most of my time in silent study halls). Perhaps I'll look through them again this summer and then, throw them out! But, maybe I need Cardiogirl to come visit and help me in that process.