I live in a museum.
I’m surrounded by unique objects that are stupefying in their variety, emotional baggage, and general uselessness.
Let’s take a tour!
[ppwp passwords= “2020 Chico launch paying”]
First artifact, a broken bicycle spoke. It was lovingly placed on my desk thirty-three years ago. It’s there to remind me the red tricycle needs fixed.
Yeah, that’s never gonna happen.
Now into the den. Careful. Don’t trip on Oscar, our son’s, cat. He’s in the Navy—the son not the cat. Charming critter, and quite possibly the reason Joe enlisted. Look to your left, see Oscar on our rapidly-becoming-antique leather furniture. He works tirelessly to accelerate the aging process with his nuclear-powered claws and teeth.
Excuse me while I grab Max, my daughter’s cat. There’s barf on the floor. From the cat, not the daughter. See how this Oscar/Max redecorating is a cross of Early American Hairball and Mid-Century Masticated. Charming.
Ahead, in the dining room, is another classical motif created by scores of children running amok near porcelain figurines. Notice the subtle variations in color and texture created by the different glues used to cobble busted bits back together. We call this “art-wrecko.” Fun fact. We enjoy hours, over dinner chit-chat, pondering how often a particular piece has been pulverized and resurrected, asking ourselves: What on Earth was that thing, originally?
There, in the front room, you’ll see pictures of people, some living, others not quite dead, our Gothic Gallery. That massive portrait of an unsmiling family is a Victorian-period photograph of my great-grandfather, slathered with oil, the photo, not great grandpa. Notice how his eyes follow you around the room.
Next up, the kid-pics. Documentary proof that once-upon-a-time there were very short and frequently disheveled people around here. Sadly, these photos are disintegrating, but then so are we.
Alongside these aging school portraits are exquisite frames selected for their splendor, fascinating images, and 2-for-1 pricing. Hung just as they came, they blur the line between family history and alternative reality. Who are these people? Do we know them? Beats me. After many years, and bottles of Sangiovese, I can’t tell you who’s who in this zoo. For example, above the credenza, there’s a grainy image that is either an authentic photo of Bigfoot, a remnant of a kindergarten finger-painting gone horribly wrong, or the only surviving picture of my maternal grandmother.
Hell, for all I know, it might be all three.
Enough with the portraits. We’ve also amassed an Impressionistic assortment of gifts: folksy pictures, bizarre sculptures, mawkish needlework, surreal stuffed toys, and quaint, home-made lamps. They are on display through the premises.
How do we curate this? Why is this stuff here? Because there’s no other place to hide it. The adjacent warehouse, formerly known as our garage, is packed-to-the-rafters by the greatest attractive forces known to science, more powerful than the death-grip of a black hole. I’m talking, of course, about the trifecta-tractor-beam of accretion, sentimentality, and the delusion: We might use this someday!
These parallel processes are why our space is stuffed with stuff that’s “precious” in the same way Gollum’s “one-ring” was way too wonderful to let go. We know how that landed. Case in point: In our family, we park $17,000 worth of cars on the street because our overburdened garage contains exactly $23 worth of …. “treasures.”
But here’s the worst part. I can’t begin to tell you what the dickens is stashed out there. For centuries, our garage has been compacted to a point it’s denser than a block of depleted uranium, not even Indiana Jones could break in there. This used to drive me a bit crazy. But no longer. After years of worrying, I’m at peace. How? Simple. I’ve gone completely nuts. Now it’s easy to just love ever expanding, cubic-clutter.
Oh, my, look at the time. I’ll end the tour with a gift—but keep it to yourself.
You, too, can survive a surfeit of stuff. Ready? Here it is: Just relax, close your eyes, inhale deeply, and visualize along with me. Picture that minimalistic, possession-free place in the sky. Your version. Next, imagine your children cleaning what is now their garage: fossilized photographs, food-encrusted bassinets, busted tricycles, and so much more! All theirs! Your gift to them! Oh, what a legacy! I only wish I could be there in spirit and watch them sort and decide what to do with all that stuff.
Because, God knows, I never could.