Halfway through my senior year of high school I left* my childhood home, my Mom and two sisters, and moved in with my Dad, a delightfully quirky bachelor who had zero furniture outside of his bed and a gorgeous grand piano. Lurch is the kind of guy who organizes his pantry alphabetically and spends $150.00 on a pepper grind because it was so sleek and shiny and deemed–after extensive research–the best pepper grinder on the market. I adore Lurch and find his anal retentive/OCD qualities charming and familiar.
When I moved in with him I took everything I owned with me. I packed up all my journals, my summer and winter clothes, toys I had already outgrown, my stuffed animals and dolls, my sticker collection, my drug store camera and box of developed photos, a half-finished crocheted afghan, and the trophies I’d earned in gymnastics, track, and a not-at-all embarrassing number of nerdy academic trophies and medals. (Best Dried Flower Collection, 5th Grade; State Silver Medalist in Math; 12th Grade (Stop laughing!); Best Student Director, Noises Off, 2001).
I carefully labeled boxes and fill them with papers I’d written that had nice comments from teachers, report cards, my baby blanket, souvenirs from trips to Hawaii, Chicago, Florida, and Washington, D.C., including a shocking number of keychains. Apparently, I thought an extensive keychain collection was the true mark of an exotic traveler.
I moved into the guest room, hung up my clothes, my Dad bought me some furniture and most of the packed-up boxes went into “Harriet’s corner” of the unfinished basement where they stayed for the next 13 years collecting company: boxes from my brothers and sisters, from Lurch’s brothers and sisters, probably from neighbors and strangers and who knows who else. The basement turned into a jungle of stacks of forgotten boxes, racks of clothes, disassembled furniture, entire walls of full file cabinets, bicycles, kites, electric trains…it was, well, crowded.
A few weeks ago my siblings and I received an email that the basement was being remodeled and all of our shit needed to be claimed. (Of course, Lurch didn’t use the term “shit.” My Dad doesn’t swear, when he gets really upset he uses words like “asinine” and “crap-o-la.”) The stacks of boxes with my 17-year old handwritten labels were still in my corner, and one afternoon I dug in and opened up a world of forgotten memories. An entire box of high school dance pictures; a sheaf of drumsticks; a jewelry box full of drugstore treasures; the box and instruction manual for my first three cell phones; the front page of the newspaper from Sept. 11, 2001; my high school diploma and graduation cap; a whole stack of cassette taps of my favorite songs recorded off the radio; posters and programs from the plays I performed in and stage managed; and, inexplicably, a box of empty glass jars and a hammer.
To be honest, most of the boxes were full of junk, junk that made me smile as I dug through and sorted it into the trash or recycle bins with a small pile of items to keep. It’s amazing the things I thought were so important, and how easily I could let them go now. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.
*I recently learned the terms of my moving from my childhood home to my Dad’s house are up for debate and interpretation. I maintain that my Mom kicked me out, I called my Dad in tears, a friend and her parents helped me pack up boxes and moved me the 25 miles to Lurch’s house because he was out of town on a business trip and couldn’t get home to help. My Mom says that I asked permission to live with Lurch, she and I sat down together and prayed about it, and she helped me pack while Lurch waited in the driveway. Riiiiiight. For the record, my Dad and friend remember the details as I do. Ahem.