Slowly, we are trying to unpack, in a new house that’s half the size of the old one we moved out of three months ago.
We wanted to downsize. But wanting to do something is not the same as getting it done.
Part of the problem is that my husband, bless him, is an incredibly sentimental soul. OK, fine, we both are.
We’ve been blessed to live full and interesting lives, including the almost 20 years we’ve been together. And we’ve got the stuff to prove it:
Paintings and photos and family keepsakes; cards and drawings our kids made in school; mementos and gifts from friends and loved ones who are gone but not forgotten; posters from concerts we think we attended and souvenirs from places we think we went; awards we won for doing stuff that we don’t remember doing.
We got rid of so much of it before we moved that now, when we look at all those boxes stacked in our new garage, we think maybe the moving company got us mixed up with people who are wondering what happened to all their stuff.
Actually, we don’t think that. We have looked inside most of those boxes. We know that stuff is ours. We just need to do one of three things: (1) Get rid of it; (2) Leave it where it is; or (3) Find some place to put it.
We’ve ruled out options 1 and 2, more or less, and are now scratching our heads on 3.
I swore when we moved here we wouldn’t clutter it up. I need to remember not to swear. This place is filling up fast, floors and walls, cupboards and closets, drawers and shelves, nooks and crannies, even the dark creepy places under the sinks where dark creepy spiders lie in wait.
A few days ago, my husband generously decided to give me any space that’s left in the house (not that there’s much) for my stuff, and he would take the garage — or rather, any garage walls not covered with boxes.
Then he went in the garage and started hammering. He hammered a long time. Finally, he took a break and he yelled for me to come look. I wish you could’ve seen it.
There were pictures of his boys when they were small. A couple of paintings he did in college. A shot of his dad in the newsroom where he worked. A scorecard from the Giants’ first victory at Pac Bell Park. A poster from a Keb Mo concert. And two lovely photos of happy couples on their wedding day — his folks and us.
“Looks great!” I told him.
“Thanks,” he said, pointing, “but look behind you.”
By the door to the kitchen, in a space that was supposed to have been for his things, he had hung two of my favorite keepsakes.
The first was a painting of the house we moved from, the place where I raised my kids. I had packed it for the move and wasn’t sure I could look at it again. But seeing it hanging there felt good, like running into an old friend and remembering all the good times we’d shared.
The other treasure was a long ago Mother’s Day gift from my daughter: a framed collection of snapshots showing me with her and her two brothers in a span of 25 years from when they were born until they were grown.
In each of those photos, my hair is a different style and a different color. It looks like a catalog for cheap wigs. But the woman in those photos seems happy and content, as if she was meant to be a mother and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Why did my husband choose to hang those things for me?
I can think of two reasons: First, he likes making me happy. It’s part of why I married him.
Second, he knows me well. That’s also part of why I married him, even when it annoys me.
Letting go is never easy. But it helps somehow to see reminders of where I’ve been and what I’ve done and all the people I have known and loved. It makes me want to wake up each day just to see what will happen next.