Boxes in the Attic
It is nearing the end of the summer and my house is littered with boxes. The older kids have been home and I foolishly thought it might be a good time to go through the boxes in the attic. After all, it is their stuff. How am I supposed to know what is a key to an enduring and endearing memory and what is simply debris? Why do I even care about the boxes in the attic?
Well, the obvious answer is that I need the room. As more kids take their leave, the plastic dinosaurs, boxes of shells, hamster cages and aquariums, sleds, sleeping bags and camo, wrestling shoes and letter jackets, trophies, shoe boxes of love letters, book report posters, scratched Teflon frying pans and slightly broken vacuum cleaners are starting to build up.
Have you ever been to an estate sale which is obviously a surprise to all involved- where the house inhabitants apparently did not know they were on their way out and suddenly, an entire lifetime of old National Geographics, novelty coffee cups and broken lawn furniture is laid bare? It is an undigested life- and an examination of conscience. Your mind races back to your own unexamined life.
I guess that the boxes in the attic mostly bother me because I do not want my house to be an ongoing anachronism. I want to embrace where I am now. The kids have moved on. If they do not care about their stuff, why should I?
I remember when my parents moved out of our family home in Illinois. For years that house had cast a spell- walking down the stairs to the basement or up to the back closet of that bedroom was like magic- trying to recreate the feeling of waking up on a summer morning with the ceiling fan whirring overhead and mom somewhere down in the kitchen doing important things. Over the years she had begged all eight of us to take what we wanted and get it out of the house. But the thought of removing those mildewed prom dresses or hot wheel tracks from the basement closet seemed like a sacrilege. Once the deed was finally done, the house no longer had its hold on me. Now I had to ask myself how I had turned out.
The thought of that makes me panic. Yes, I want this house to reflect reality- not a fantasy that the kids are coming home and that noisy dinners are the norm and not the exception. But not quite yet. I am the keeper of the memories, the archivist, the witness to their life and struggles. I cannot get rid of this stuff, even if it would be so much more efficient and forward looking. There is a value to remembering for them who they are, in case they sometimes forget. Maybe, after all is said and done, I only managed to take two loads to Goodwill this year. The rest will wait. I am putting the boxes back in the attic.