Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Detritus of Life So Far

I don't even remember why I started it, but there I was pulling things from the floor of the closet and asking myself rhetorical questions like "Why is she keeping all these shoeboxes?"

More boxes. Nifty metal rectangular ones from Ikea.  Boxes bursting with photos that will never be put into albums.  The boxes are dented from back in the days when they were pulled off the shelves of the built-in hutch and incorporated into some elaborate scheme involving Tonka trucks, Hotwheels, dinosaurs and those dark green molded plastic soldiers.

"Watch this, Mom!  See this guy, he's going to...."

That was two houses ago.

Stacks of cds, borrowed from the family's collection and never returned to the proper cabinet.  Books by Philip Roth, David McCullough and John Dean.  The entire set of Harry Potter novels in hardback plus some of the audio books.  Old cassettes of Jack Benny radio shows, a full set of David Sedaris books on cd.  Anthony Kiedis's autobiography Scar Tissue.  I wondered where that was.

Some Calculus books.  Did MathMan say he was going to be teaching Calculus next semester?

A Rubbermaid box of things belonging to MathMam.  Baseball memorabilia,  some concert programs from a 1989 Paul McCartney show we attended at the Rosemont Horizon when it was still the Horizon.  That was the same year we went to see Les Miserables at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago.  The same year we moved to Chicago after we graduated from I.U and it snowed on May 5th.  My dad was helping us move in with MathMan's mom.  He looked up at the sky showering us with fluffy snow, then back at me and asked if I was sure I wanted to live in Chicago.

I was sure.

A little box of jewelry, mostly broken, that had once cluttered the top of my dresser circa 1978.  I picked through it and saved the old spoon ring and two buttons:  I'm Like Freakin Out! and J'aime le Francais.  Stuck them right through some poster board so they can grace my "new" office space.  Tossed the rest.

Oh, right.  That's what started all this - I was going to shift Nate's clothes upstairs since we moved him back up to the small room that had been my office.  He was ready to have his own room again, was tired of sleeping in the wide open space of the basement family room with no door that locked.  He's a fourteen year old boy.  I'm not stupid.  I'm not going to be picking up discarded socks from his floor though.

With an assist from MathMan, the record albums in their milk crates were moved out of the closet and given a place, accessible, but out of the way in the corner of what was now my new office/weight room.

He also took down the mystery box from the top shelf.  So that's where they were - the few photo albums we owned, full of pictures form the early days of our life together.  Back when I had the time and inclination to sit down and enjoy the tedium of inserting photos into plastic sleeves.  Back when I had photos developed and the archivist in me had to sit down and write on the back of each one - the people, places and dates.  It was important.  Back before three kids and jobs and distractions.  Before I used the internet to do more than occasionally search for photos of houseplans people could order from Sears and other mail-order companies.  When I would have laughed at the idea of spending large amounts of time in front of the computer during my non-work hours.

We didn't even bother to unpack those photo albums when we moved into this house.

Time to refold those old baseball jerseys and put them into some kind of box for Nate.  And do we still have this iHome charger/player thing?  Here are the instructions.  Did I see that in Chloe's room?

Two Composition books with only a few pages used.  Those might be nice to have this coming school year. MathMan's bassoon repair kit, still housed in the 1970s orange Tupperware it's been in since I've know him.

Sit down and look through that basket of photos that never even made it into the IKEA boxes?

And when did I put this box of Little Tikes building blocks in here?  Those can go in the garage with the rest of the abandoned toys.  Maybe it's time to donate these things.  I don't see us moving them every time we change rentals just because we might have grandchildren some day.  Better to let some kid have them now to enjoy. 

The stack of board games teeters precariously next to my Conn trumpet case, completely ignored on the top shelf.  Dang, I thought that silver trumpet was hot and I was hot shit playing it.  Until I decided that I'd rather march as a flag twirler in a skimpy halter dress instead of those hideous band uniforms with those fuzzy white tall hats.  The joke was on us, though.  The band kids stayed toasty warm in their wool uniforms and we froze our nipples off when the parades took place on early autumn mornings that plunged down into the forties.  With fog.

Do I really need to keep this old cheerleading patch with my name on it?  It's yellowed.  Might be fun to put it on my desk though.  Just for kicks.

That ceramic tic-tac-toe set that Sophie made two years ago in Art Club should be put in something safe before it's crushed to dust.

What's this?  A Samsung phone box from which Hanukkah?  Must have been 2007 or 2008?  We were still in the John Kay Road house.  It was the used phone we bought for Chloe from her friend who'd upgraded to the first iPhone.  Or was it a Blackberry? It was the phone that she dropped in the Target parking lot then accidentally stepped on while wearing those brown suede boots we used to "share."  The ones with the heel that scraped the side of her newish used phone.  I unkindly teased her about not being so graceful for a dancer.

I finished matching up the pairs of shoes I'd fished from the bottom of the closet and stepped back to consider how they now had feet bigger than mine.

What kind of trouble are you getting into this Wednesday?


  1. Ah...the 'photo albums'! I remember them well. I have a pile of pix that need to be - well, once I would have put them in an album; now I want to scan them all.

  2. A year ago I spent about $1200 to scan all of the family photos. It was wildly extravagant but I swear it's the best $1200 I ever spent. We took all of the empty albums and photo boxes to the dump and threw into the dumpster with maniacal glee. I literally said things like "I am free, free at last!"

    Also, you might enjoy this post at hyperbole and a half:

  3. Since my adventures in Macon last month I've been looking at everything we own and asking "Why?" Photo albums full of pictures of people and events that I can no longer remember, CDs I rarely listen to, books that gather dust and attract roaches (German cockroaches like the glue that holds most books together), my collection of National Park pins that turns me a little weepy every time I look at them but don't mean a thing to anyone else in the family. . . I like Susan's idea of scanning photos. When technology moves on and those files are no longer readable by any device I own or the hard drive dies, it'll save my kids the trouble of wondering just who the odd looking relatives were.


    (This is the scream I emit whenever I even *look* into our guest bedroom, which must be cleared out and made pristine for a dear friend who's coming to stay for a spell in October.)

    October. Hmm. That's ... HOLY SHIT! ... just two months away!

    Oh, Lisa. I'm so with you. Maybe I'll just call 1-800-GOT-JUNK and ask the crew to stick a giant vacuum hose through the window and turn that sucker ON!

  5. We know we accumulate a lot of shit, but when we're forced to confront said mountains of madness, that's when we reach for the bottle and curse ourselves in the nearest shiny object.

    Do what I do and just blame the kids. We'd have less stuff if it wasn't for them.

  6. And I thought I had weird stuff (and items last seen when Ptolemy was kicking around Egypt)!

  7. Enjoyed this jaunt through your boxes, Lisa. You never know what you might find. It was fun. :)

  8. Two things:
    1. I just cleaned out my office closet last Wednesday! It was like a wedding and high school photo albums and old stale beauty products threw up all over. Took a full day but it was totally worth it.
    2. With all of the family/chemo drama lately, I have been lax on my Reader reading. Holy cats, gurrrl. I have a lot to catch up on.

  9. I just can't keep a lot of stuff! I get nervous. My wife has to stop me when I get on a "cleaning" kick because I throw away stuff. If this is the 5th time I've had to pick this same toy up, it gets thrown away. If I start looking into boxes of stuff I hadn't thought about in years, I feel the urge to throw it away (or sell it). So, if I found all of those boxes they would have a price tag on them or a one-way ticket to the dump or recycle center. But that's just me.

  10. You know what really makes a person winnow their excess shit down? When they have to look at it and decide "Is this worth bringing with us when we expatriate to Australia?" Between the two of us, I and Mrs. Bukko disposed of at least one person/life's worth of "stuff." Moving back across the Pacific to Canada was a breeze, because the load had already been lightened. State-to-state, house-to-house moves are easy-peazy next to that.

  11. Tried to comment earlier but the blogger wouldn't let me...

    I'd scan the important pictures and then put them away in case I need them. The rest of the pictures can be thrown away.

  12. Married bliss:

  13. One good thing about living in a tiny NYC apartment--you have to purge. The bad thing is that just a few more items and you feel like you need to purge NOW. Thanks for the kick in the pants. I need to go through old clothes, books, etc. and deliver the good stuff to Housing Works. Kudos.

  14. That's a really nice piece of writing. Thanks.

  15. Wow. I remember photo albums! I used to be very diligent about labeling each photo too! Because it really WAS important. And now, when I look back on them [which isn't very often] I am glad I documented them so well. And I will never have the heart to get rid of them!

    But, if I actually printed out REAL photos NOW - instead of putting them on flickr, my hard-drive, and on disks, I wouldn't be able to get ANYTHING else done!

  16. Thanks to all of you for your lovely comments. We're slowly scanning in the photos, as some of you who know both MathMan and me on Facebook can see when he uploads them to his flickr account.

    A good deal got thrown out or readied for donation. I will not, however, part with my Anthony Kiedis book. The pictures in there are mmmmm...

  17. Wow, isn't it interesting to see all the stuff that we've got pied up in our closets, etc.? One of these days I'm going to take a similar walk through memory lane, i think. :)


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