There comes a time when you just have to part with things.
When they stop being ‘belongings’ and become ‘things’ it is time for them to go.
How do I know this? Let me take a few moments to share.
We recently marked the first anniversary of my husband’s unexpected passing in January 2013. So from a healing perspective, Jan. 21, 2014 meant that we had all of our ‘firsts’ – the first Father’s Day without him, his first birthday, our first anniversary, the first Christmas, the first New Year … and so on. Since I had never been through anything like that before, I wasn’t sure of the timeline on what to feel when and how to proceed. It’s probably a different timeline for everyone and I really don’t think you can put any rules on loss and grief and making it through.
Be that as it may, my daughter and I have now moved to a different home and it required the going through of a lot of ‘things’ that had been basically transported from garage to garage over the course of a few moves in the time I arrived in California until now – starting with just my ‘stuff’ and then adding in a whole lot more from my husband, our daughter and my two stepsons.
Rather than just move it all again, I decided it was time to get in there and sort through and whittle out and get rid of what had just become stuff. It all meant something at one time but, more than 20 years later, I guess I don’t really need the ‘Good Luck’ cards and notes from my going away party in New York when I made the move west. Not to mention old notebooks from back in ’94 when I was covering Riverbank…they really don’t matter anymore.
My daughter did attempt to help. At least at the beginning. But when everything she wanted to throw out I had to check and make sure that it was just ‘stuff’ and not a cherished ‘belonging’ … well she got tired of that routine pretty quickly. Plus I don’t think she liked getting in to the old, musty, creepy back shed that housed the bulk of our stuff.
She settled for going through the stuff in her own room and managed to throw away quite a bit herself.
Of course, there are those things you forget you have, over the course of a marriage and raising kids and getting involved in school and sports. Things you have tucked away; Ally’s Student of the Month laminated award from first grade is now on the refrigerator, eventually it will go into a keepsake box for her. I had even forgotten how extensive my collection of old time radio shows was; it is a true hobby of mine and I look forward to listening to them again, after more than 10 years of storing them and never having the time to enjoy them. Plenty of school projects have also been saved, though many books and magazines were donated to the Oakdale Library’s upcoming book sale and several boxes of long unused but still serviceable household items hopefully will find a new home, courtesy of a charitable donation.
It became an exercise in liberation of sorts. Sifting through boxes and barrels, old bookshelves and filing cabinets, putting things in perspective, throwing away what isn’t needed but keeping what is. There were days when it was too much, though; memories flooding back when I unearthed the Baptism candles when we had all three kids baptized at my childhood church in New York, and pictures of a family trip to Marine World, Ally all smiles sitting on top of her dad’s shoulders, the boys and I soaked from sitting too close to the tank at the whale show …
The day I finally finished the job, it was pouring down rain and if I was in to metaphors and imagery, I would say it was the washing away of the painful parts of the past, with my daughter and I able now to move forward, even a few steps at a time.
We are all on a journey, with many chapters to experience and each one building on the next; they all get us to where we need to be and help make us who we are. And even when you get rid of ‘stuff’ – you can hold on to the memories associated with it; they are part of your own personal book of life.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.