For several days I’ve been packing up our house in South Carolina, prepping for the move back home to Texas. When we married, Paul and I merged our two homes, then moved three times – this move will be our fourth move in 2 years – and there is just a lot of extraneous crap we’ve been hauling around. This time, I am determined we haul it no further.
As a result, my approach to packing has been far less throw-it-all-in-boxes-and-hope-for-the-best, much more about being organized and lightening the load. It requires a certain ruthlessness of which I am more than capable.
Sorting through all the old letters and cards from friends and family over the years I found several from my late friend, Jeff, and so I found it not at all coincidental when later the same afternoon, I could almost hear him snickering at me over the wrapping paper and more specifically, the ribbon.
Jeff was raised in a frugal home, and he could squeeze the last penny from a nickle when he needed to. One of his more peculiarly amusing bits of frugality was saving wrapping paper. While clearing stuff out of his house before he moved, I realized how much he’d come to trust me. That day, we came to the place Where Wrapping Paper Went to Die.
“Dude, this has become a hoarding situation,” I told him, pulling scraps of crumbling paper from a large, deep box, one of several.
“But it’s so pretty…. I might use it one day…”
“Not the stuff that’s disintegrating. Seriously, how long have you had this? Was this your mother’s?!” I don’t know how much wrapping paper I threw into Jeff’s recycling bin that day, but it was a lot. A LOT a lot. And thus why I felt him laughing at my ribbon blob yesterday.
There were three separate containers full of wrapping paper and ribbon, with one clearly specific to Christmas, but Christmas had infiltrated the other two, all higgledy-piggledy. I hate higgledy-piggledy.
I love good, fabric ribbon; it looks lush, lovely, and expensive on a package, so I save reusable lengths of it and, judging from yesterday’s mother lode, lots of not-so-usable scraps, scraps that would have gone beautifully with Jeff’s old, yellowing, disintegrating wrapping paper in some sort of Hoarders Hall of Fame. Fortunately, I’m in just the right frame of mind – I call it scorched earth mode, sort of the organizers’ version of Beast Mode – for sorting and shedding the detritus of Life, and out went all the seriously too-short for practical use strands, no matter how pretty. They will now serve as upgraded nesting material for the birds that live off landfills, and I am content.
The day before, I’d gone through three largish plastic crates of letters, cards, ticket stubs and other souvenirs, saving some and rubbishing most, little ribbons of my life past and present. Some rich in memory, others mere trinkets I’d once imbued with misinterpreted meaning, or ideas that were just flat out wrong. A precious few have no monetary value, but a price beyond rubies in sentiment: a tooth and a note from my once-little-girl to the Tooth Fairy; one of her letters to Santa, clearly designating cookies and milk for him, carrots and celery for his reindeer; photos of her at three months old, sprawled across her father’s lap, dead asleep; dozens of cards from the flowers Paul has sent me, each one with few but essential words of what I bring to him, his life. Lovely, silky, shining ribbons of memories, ribbons of choices made. Perhaps age brings with it the liberty of no longer feeling compelled to store physical evidence of the past, of memory, or choices made. Without one shred of physical evidence, they are all stored within me and who I am today is the totality of them. So I saved the useful ones, the positive ones, the ones connected to love and that which is good, and tossed the rest. I lightened the load and didn’t lose a thing.