The tendency to save vs. purge must be a genetic trait. In my husband’s family, the mantra was always to never discard anything. I mean, anything. It was fun to swap stories about the absurdity of the items that our family members deemed important enough to save. If it were a contest, my in-laws would always win; and here’s why.
It was several years after we were married that a small, padded box was produced from the bedroom of their small, ranch style home; a home that this family of 6 should have outgrown about 2 siblings ago. Every visible wall space that wasn’t covered by a window was bursting with “stuff”; leaving only a 2 foot walking path to navigate around most rooms. Besides the over-sized furniture, there were numerous book shelves, curio cabinets, glass display cases, ornate wooden cabinets; all to contain their collectibles. To me, their home always looked like a massive garage sale just waiting to happen.
But the padded box was something yet again. She had a proud smile as she walked toward me with the precious items; there were 4 of them, each wrapped in plastic, then tissue paper, with names and dates carefully marked in ink. She had preserved her children’s umbilical cords.
It was a regular Kodak moment. It’s hard to imagine the look on my face; both upon the first viewing, and moments later when she asked me if I wanted my husband’s as a keepsake. I declined.
Years later when I recalled this story for friends, I used to comment on how grateful I was that he was born at a time when circumcision was discouraged for infant boys. Bullet dodged.
The contrast to my family’s attitudes and habits regarding “stuff” was never more apparent. We were of the purge variety. I was raised in a house with 8 people, 1 bath and only 3 bedrooms. If it couldn’t be used, handed down, or donated to charity, it was discarded. This went back several generations; there was a story of my grandfather, who had an antique, fully-functional player piano which he paid someone $10. to haul away in the early 1900’s.
It is said that removing the clutter from your environment will help you deal with the clutter in your mind. My family had a lot of mental clutter.
This led to a lot of compromise for us as a couple over the years. There has been no real bloodshed; but there has been deception. I have been known to fill a trash bag or two to be placed at the curb for pick up, but only after he had left for work. So far, he hasn’t missed anything. No regrets.
It’s always interesting to see what a person with a purge disposition chooses to save. I recently shed real tears when I realized that my adult children had no interest in the 8 years of file boxes that I’d saved from their childhood. These were some of the best years of our family life, but nobody wanted to store the paper memories, not even me.
One of the small boxes I kept contained mementos from my school years; report cards, awards, theater ticket stubs, billboard items, prom photos, football programs, newspaper clippings, etc; all of which covered the 16 years from 1st grade to college graduation.
And that is where I found it. The 2 page blue cardboard phone directory that graced the wall of my husband’s first off-campus apartment. There were names and phone numbers for all those we cared about…our families back home, our friends in the dorms, professors to be contacted. He had 3 roommates, so there might have been 50 or 60 numbers listed, in very small print.
In the middle of all of those, in the tiniest script of all, was this:
“Hailing Frequency of a Klingon Vessel ” ………………. number unlisted.
I smiled and put it back into the box. If only for the laugh, some things are just worth saving.