A to Q

Make wisdom your provision for the journey from youth to old age, for it is a more certain support than all other possessions. Bias

PackRat

I wanted to investigate the whole “pack rat” thing I’m accused of… Yes, I like to keep stuff that I find to be meaningful. I’ve also found that it’s not always appropriate to throw out stuff you haven’t touched in a year. Look, I threw out my funnel and then I had to borrow my sister’s when I needed to pour the limoncello I was making in a bigger bottle.

midden is a fancy name for a pile of trash, often left by pack rats. Pack rats leave middens near their nests, which may be continuously occupied for hundreds, or even thousands, of years. Each layer of trash contains twigs, seeds, animal bones and other material, which is cemented together by urine. Over time, the midden becomes a treasure trove of information for plant ecologists, climate change scientists and others who want to learn about past climatic conditions and vegetation patterns dating back as far as 25,000 years.

So that led me to thinking about things like treasure troves and scientists and others who want to learn about past stuff.
I never realized my mom was a bit of a pack rat until we had to clean out the kitchen before my dad moved. A lot of stuff got tossed but I managed to save a couple of Mom’s really, really old cookbooks… and tucked in the pages of one of those cookbooks was a letter from my Nana to my Mom with directions to make homemade pizza. Darn it, if Nanny didn’t write it just the way she would have spoken in it if she were sitting right there in front of Mom. To me, it is such a treasure.

And then there was the black plastic trash bag. My friend, Julie, might remember a creative writing assignment she gave once to a writer’s group and I submitted this story based on a real event. I wasn’t in the group, I just submitted a story and I didn’t follow the directions, but everyone said the story was good. It really was another one of those fact is stranger than fiction – or sadder than fiction.

We were helping my Dad clean the basement and I opened up a black trashbag only to find a brown paper bag filled with old greeting cards and other assorted mementos. My mom had saved them. There were cards that celebrated my parents’ engagement, wedding shower, and wedding. And then there were cards for her baby shower and then cards that were sent for the birth of their children (the most of them were from when I was born – I was the oldest so it just figures, huh?)
There was a letter from the hotel, where they spent the first night of their honeymoon, quoting the price for the stay. There was a matchbook from the hotel where they stayed in Bermuda – the same hotel where I was conceived, mind you!

Oh and the point of all this is that my dad was going to throw it out. I guess in his mind, Mom was dead, his marriage was over and all of this was now trash. Maybe it was just too painful for him to look at anymore. Maybe it was really trash. I saved it all. I gave the cards to my brothers. I have the rest of the stuff.

I also have a coat that my grandfather made me when I was like 5 years old… and my First Communion dress that was made by a great aunt.

And yes, I have shoeboxes filled with ticket stubs and programs from concerts and shows and museums. And cards that were pretty cool with neat sentiments. And race numbers from when I ran in 5ks and other road races. And heavens, I don’t know what else. I think it is time to go through those boxes again.

We’re going to be moving sometime in the next year. I dread going through all the stuff but it has got to be done. I know there are things I will sell and things I will trash – but those shoeboxes and those cookbooks and that bag of cards and that dress and coat – they’re keepers.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “A to Q

  1. Oh, I remember that story you wrote! I’d forgotten about it. Good stuff. We were all blown away. Hmm, there’s lots of talent in your cluttered not-so-plain-brain.

    I love savers. I have boxes of love letters including Grandpa at war writing to Grandma. Grandfather at law school writing to Nana. How could anyone ever throw that stuff away? Sure, I wouldn’t mind a fancy box for it. But only flood or fire is prying it from my grasp.

  2. echmoa

    Hi peg.. I love that you are a pack rat.. I didnt know that expression till I blogged about it either.. I have always considered myself a hoarder, but I had nothing on my mum! So now I have all my collections, and hers.. As I have got older I have felt the need to save less, but still have a ‘treasure box” and always will have.. thanks for the great read…

  3. I have everything I’ve ever had.

    The other night, I wathced a show on “hoarders.” They are now considering this to be a serious disease that kills. (cieling-high pack-rat piles of junk have collapsed onto their owners, crushing them to their demise) Researchers are also attributing hoarding to divorce and family dysfunction.

    I have dresses that I wore as a baby and every children’s book my mother ever read to me. I have items from my father’s barn and my grandmother’s basement. I have ticket stubs, matchbooks, superballs, paper clips, pins, buttons, and a wisdom tooth that came from the mouth of a boy I once I loved. (he turned out to be gay)

    I also have my baby bonnets, recieving blankets, letters, postcards, and of course, I have boxes of notebooks containing stories I wrote that date back to 1984. I have just about every trinket or treasure that marks a moment in time for me.

    I’ve thrown a lot out over the years. And although I want to keep every article of clothing and toy that has belonged to my children since birth, I do disgard of such things.

    I keep things to hold on to memories or people. And some things I have kept in order to hold on to myself.

    When I pass, my children will sift through boxes and bags much like you did, Peg. They’ll find parts of me they never knew.

    And, like the true pack-rat that I am, I pee all over my piles of things to keep them intact. No worries of being crushed by my memories. I keep them cemented and perserved in urine. There’s no other way to manage the mass.

  4. Now I want to spend the day going through my treasure boxes!

  5. I just want to state, for the record, that my hoarding is not of the disease nature. It probably is an attempt to hold on to others and myself.
    Some folks are able to let go of their stuff. I’ve said this before, I fear forgetting. I hold on so I never forget… or I never misconstrue reality. Sometimes I think things happened a certain way only to be corrected. I want the proof so that my mind and soul will be at ease – not because I need to be right… but in my right mind!

  6. Holding onto trinkets to jog your memory and preserve your personal history is sentimental and important. Hoarding years of yesterday’s newspaper isn’t sentimental, it’s just mental.

  7. Excuse me, what did you say? I can’t see my computer screen very well. My newspaper landslide just shifted.

  8. Oh, I’m not that kind of hoarder. I don’t feel the need for stuff. I feel the need to recall.

    I have a cool recalling story about Julie, but I’m going on three hour’s sleep. I’ll check in tomorrow.

  9. spanky

    i have my fathers boy hood wallet, 4 h pics still in it intact. I have my baby boys blue infannt cap (looks like a john john cap) I have my diary from when i was younger and wilder…but i am not good at keeping things. I have pondered why this is, and i guess I am simply compelled to purge my “stuff” a few times a year. I am sure I have thrown out many things i wish i would have kept. but i remember everything. sissy is the keeper of the physical and i am the keeper of the memory. atleast that is how i see it.

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