New Year’s Day signifies the beginning of a brand new year. For us, it also means taking down our holiday decorations and stowing them all away. The red and blue woolen Christmas stockings embroidered with our names in gold that we bought our first holiday together, Robert’s silver menorah his parents gave him when he was a boy, and the homemade tree ornaments bearing the smiling faces of our nieces, Erin and Hannah when they were just a few years old. These are just a few of the many things we carefully wrap and store in containers. And those containers are then lifted up a ladder and disappear into the blackhole in our garage ceiling and enter the place where no man seems to have ever gone before – the place known as – our attic.
Normally, we’d just stack those cartons up there and quickly close the lid behind us. But this time we decided to see what’s actually lurking in the shadows. After our initial shock, we began playing a game we call “What’s In That Box?” Mountains of crates have resided there for the seventeen years we’ve lived in this house. Some of the boxes go back further and have been our constant companions since 1991 when we made our first major move from California to Oregon. Though some of these boxes are labeled, their real contents have surprised us. Old motorcycle helmets, my “autograph” book from 1973, a painting of a young boy on one side of a canvas and a painting of older man on the back, scary puppets, and my favorite discovery so far, a full size stand up “Spin the Wheel” labeled with bizarre pizza toppings!
Why do we keep these things?
My journal entry January 8, 1992: Hillsboro, OR
“I have eight pairs of jeans…why? Only three fit. Need to donate some stuff.”
Whenever I consider this question, I am reminded of a present Robert received in August of 1997. He unwrapped the package to find a pair of sky blue cotton shorts. When he tried them on, they didn’t fit right. They were too long to be shorts and too short to be pants. And this was the time before men wearing “capris” was even a thing. To me, they looked a bit odd so I offered to help. Could I hem them? The answer was, “No, they’re fine just the way they are.” Then I had another idea…I’d washed them. I’m the Queen of Shrink and have been known to turn adult clothing into doll’s wear, but even I couldn’t shorten them. So Robert continued to wear his too long sky blue cotton shorts and I just let it be.
Like our holiday decorations, we all keep things. We become attached to things for many reasons. I am a Re-Purposer, so after I use a thing, I like to turn it into something new. I keep old letters because the people who wrote them somehow touched my life. As far as clothes go, sometimes I hold onto an item because it reminds me of a time I wore it, or more recently, I am hopeful it will fit me once again.
Now those shorts were around for many years. Robert wore them until they were threadbare. I don’t remember their ultimate fate, but something finally dawned on me long after they were gone. Robert was attached to those shorts because he was attached to the person who had given them to him. Those shorts, afterall were a birthday gift from his beloved mom. Ella.