Monday, October 11, 2010

Excerpting a Life

My eldest daughter recently asked me to summarize and excerpt a journal, written intermittently since I was a dreamy, thirteen-year-old teenager some sixty years ago. 
This initiates that summary.  I deem it a good time to begin, having just moved into a house which, barring catastrophe, should be home for the rest of my life.  I’m sorting through possessions, including boxes of books and photos and mementos accumulated over a lifetime.  I intend to go through every box that fills the garage and lines the hallway.  And as I unearth each item, I need to decide whether to:  “Put it away, give it away or throw it away” (my new motto).  This will be difficult, since I am something of a collector.  The project will no doubt prove to be a sort of personal archeology.
Everything is now out of storage.  I have already put away a great deal – dishes and other kitchenware, books (many more are still in boxes), a collection of eggs accumulated from around the world, office supplies.  Ten rolls of scotch tape were scattered in various locations around my previous home.  There are first-aid health supplies (band-aids, cotton balls, tubes of antibiotic and ointments), two or three boxes of them, some from the other house, some from trip supplies, some from boxes I’d mailed back at the end of those years I lived abroad.
Almost everything I put away evokes a memory.  A dishwasher magnet (green for washed and orange for dirty) given to me by my (ex-)mother-in-law (now deceased) during a time in my life that was so hectic (job, children, housekeeping, church) I couldn’t keep track of whether the dishes had been run through or not.  I think of her every time I turn it over from green to orange or back.  And I still have it affixed to the dishwasher, even though my much more modern dishwasher tells me (if I bother to look) whether or not the dishes are clean.   A wooden totem pole I carved as a child sitting on the porch of our house in Waterford, Michigan reminds me of the feel and smell of the countryside and of Native Americans, who still live in that area.
The past is always just behind us if we turn around and look back.

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