I’m sure it’s not an original thought of my grandmother, but “we spend the first half of our lives collecting stuff and the last half giving it away.” I think it’s safe to say that, at age 57, I am in the “last half” of mine. And, as if the expression of the “purge stuff” gene lays dormant until age 50, it has reared its wonderful head and is now in full swing. The “giving away” has begun, and the Salvation Army and the trashcan are the lucky benefactors.
Let me tell you, going through papers is a bit like an archaeological dig. Those at the top of the pile represent the most recent in time while those toward the bottom are the “ancient history.” And each stack is like a digest of your life. On a given week (or two…or three), I struggle with getting through the Sunday newspaper and then disposing of (er, recycling) it. So you can imagine how quickly I can collect a wee bit of paper!
Okay, so “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘wee’ is.” Ya, ya, there’s some paper. Some of it is just too “hot” to handle: old, OLD IEPs that are inexplicably depressing and should honestly be ceremoniously burned, or documents from legal battles that represent years of my life doing what was necessary and right…but are now just too painful to touch and too “important” to throw away (perhaps material for that next book that never seems to get started). Sure, I get through some of the piles but then there are those piles that, well, continue to be piles.
Beyond the paper, there’s the “stuff” and all that it represents: clothes in my closet saved for years in hopes that twenty pounds might miraculously fall off my hips and thighs (I think I can now be rational and accept the fact that there are no fairy godmothers and I will not be spending hours at the gym), or “tacky sweaters” that might at some point no longer be considered tacky (nope, still tacky and always will be), an upholstered headboard and matching bedding originally designed for a 12-year-old’s bedroom (cute stuff but she’s 23, has graduated from college, and is on board that her room does not necessarily need to be a shrine to her youth), and assorted cookie tins (so, I guess I thought I was opening a bakery or would find time to bake for neighbors? Ya, didn’t happen).
Inspired by the title of the theme song from the movie “Frozen,” I’ve made headway cleaning out drawers and closets. “Let it go, let it go…” (That’s it for knowing the lyrics to the song. I told you I was decluttering my house. Why the heck would I want to clutter my brain with unnecessary lyrics?)
But then there’s the closet that is apparently emotionally “off limits.” Although it holds more than costumes, it is known as “the costume closet.” It holds the Harry Potter glasses and matching Gryffindor tie for when you might receive your letter by owl to attend Hogwarts, the witch’s robe and twig broomstick for when you might want to freak out the people you have already freaked out by dressing up as Harry Potter (you know, “those people”), or the white doctor’s coat and black gloves to become Doctor Nefario. (Hmm, are you thinking what I’m thinking? In a pinch, the Harry Potter glasses could be worn to improve the Dr. Nefario costume!) In any case, am I leading you to believe there are only costumes of witchcraft and evil? If so, that’s just not true. We can’t forget the pirate wench or naughty strawberry girl costumes that came home from college and made their way into the closet, too. Not all witchcraft and evil. Slutty, too!
You say you don’t have a costume closet? Hmm, everyone needs a costume closet! That’s where all the cool stuff is stashed to become someone you otherwise might not get to be. And that stuff isn’t going anywhere. Forget the lyrics! I ain’t lettin’ it go!
But then there’s the rest of the stuff in that closet that is apparently emotionally off limits: the neatly stored toys and the perfectly preserved children’s clothes. Dozens and dozens of them. Apparently, when the “purge gene” kicked in, there must have been a variant strain because it has, so far, not included that closet.
So, when I began hearing, “let it go, let it go…,” I finally began doing some soul-searching related to that closet. I know why I wouldn’t touch the costumes. But what gives with the toys and the four rods of children’s clothes neatly arranged by size?
The toys? Ya, there’s an explanation of sorts, I guess. We’re “stuck” developmentally. We haven’t quite outgrown them and haven’t quite moved on with our daughter with special needs. Ya, she’s thirty…but she’s not…”thirty.” Not just for the future grandkids, those toys might occasionally be pulled out for brushing up on some skills…say, at 32 or 33.
And the clothes? I guess I just can’t part with them because I can’t accept how I wasn’t able to take those years or moments in…getting to just be a mom…rather than trying to create those perfectly worded, but awful, unfulfilled IEPs. The ones that the educational system agreed to, then thumbed their nose at and ignored. The ones that I can’t burn. Or when I was fighting those blasted legal battles that did more for lining the pockets of attorneys, and for the families who came behind us, than they ever did for my daughter or my family. That’s when my children wore those adorable outfits. When I was fighting battles. When I was running to multiple therapy sessions a week for our oldest after the brain damage when the surgeon botched her open heart surgery. When I was desperate for help and none was forthcoming. My children looked clean and adorable and precious, but circumstances were such that I didn’t get to take it all in.
Surely there’s a costume in that closet for a “mom.” That’s what I wanted to become that I didn’t get to be. Just a mom.