Ok, I admit it. I’m hopeless when it comes to purging my drawers and cupboards.
Having returned this week from my three month sojourn in San Diego in my neat little condo( sigh), I face my house here with the thought, “ what a lot of stuff I have”.So today I decide it’s time to declutter in the kitchen and get rid of unnecessary accumulated items that I have stuffed in drawers although it seems to me in a dark memory, that I did in fact, reduce some clutter a few months ago when my friend Anne counselled me to do just 20 minutes a day of cleanup.
But when I pry open the kitchen drawer where I’ve stored so many significant pieces of my life ( why, you may wonder, the kitchen drawers???? another space to fill, I guess) ) I am awash in memories. There I observe in a tangle not only my kids’ grade five report cards offering a glimpse into who they would become, but the commencement booklets in which -in a leap that consumed ten years or so- they had fulfilled their teachers’ promises to garner outstanding achievements and student awards.
Unpacking the mess, I’m thinking that my son’s sons might get a giggle from descriptions of their dad at their present ages with comments regarding his almost illegible handwriting, his commitment to task, his improvements. So too, to add to his trajectory from boy to adult, I find a piece called Passages that I wrote the night after his wedding at the King George Hotel, and shoved into the drawer.
I had observed,
“I thought I would be cool at the wedding. I didn’t even carry a hanky! Yet when my husband and I paused midway down the aisle to greet our son, I experienced emotions I had never known. What began as a fluttering in my chest grew and grew, threatening to explode and consume my body. My sole awareness was my throbbing heart that had overtaken all of my senses, shrinking my limbs and head to leave only the sensation of pounding…
next came my two girls, stunning in cranberry gowns. But rather than a release from my throbbing heart, I felt it intensify. As a captive of my emotions, I was truly servant to them, awash in terrible, raw emotion. Minutes had stretched and elongated, binding time, place and persons into a sticky, unrelenting concoction of feeling…”
So glad am I that I did not pitch that piece from an earlier attempt to cleanup.
Now, it is true I might not still need the map of South Africa from a trip Howard and I took about 8 years ago, my certificate of teacher qualifications from 1970, or birthday and anniversary cards, handmade and store bought, both funny and sincere, some with actual photos secreted in the creases, almost all with scribbled comments, but truly, these are artifacts that document my life and pinpoint my important comings and going : the liminal exits and entrances in our family.
Along with these treasures are unpublished pieces, a most recent one on Lawren Harris, (OK, maybe two years ago), a schema for drawing the human head, some carefully bound candlesticks in bubble wrap from Israel, a balloon inflater, multicoloured pipecleaners…and a letter from William Whitehead on writer Timothy Findley’s passing, 2002. This in its envelope I note, for I had taught Findley’s Not Wanted on the Voyage in the 90’s, the irreverent retelling of Noah and the ark in which Lucy/ Lucifer, the crossdressing angel plays the hero to a maniacal god in the tale. So ahead of the times, so clever and compelling, Findley was, devilishly so. In response to my note, Whitehead had responded,
“ Dear Patricia
Many thanks for your warm letter, and for sharing with me your response to teaching Not Wanted on the Voyage. It was a continuing source of wonder and satisfaction to him( Findley) that the book seemed to have such an effect on young people…”
These pieces of my past illuminate my activities as a mom, a teacher, a person, and how I lead my life- one in hindsight that has fled awfully quickly. I see myself as an interesting, provocative teacher who held my students’ attention, engaging them with smiles, their intellect and curiosity peaked and their learning enhanced because of challenging literature and their thoughtful interaction with carefully posed questions and contemplations.
No doubt, one day a bulldozer will level my house of memories and beside, it is perhaps only I who cares for these amulets, my own kids totally uninterested in old projects I proffer, compiled in Grade three, or their teachers’ comments. They say, “Mom, just pitch them.”
But really I cannot, for it would be as if I had severed a foot.
I did keep journals ( these housed in bedroom drawers) when it became the fashion, but rereading those words in worn notebooks, I am cast back into gloom as I had recorded anger, outrage, sadness, the dark side of my being; or the flip side, the mere noting or listing of the tedium of daily events .The ordinariness of those entries does not interest me at present. The banal home for Facebook comments now, the personal made public : such as a funny spotted dog performing a backward leap ; or a visit to a grocery store where there were twelve kinds of olives ( oh my) ; or an important bit about how Mary borrowed my skirt and did not return it, tsk, tsk, or what to serve cousins coming for dinner, blah, blah, blah. The trivia of life. In deed, the contrast of extreme, perhaps.
My kitchen drawers’ actual pieces although many replete with emotions of pride and connection somehow feel more objective than journal entries. The clutter of papers I have collected in these drawers I am unable to disregard, the occasional thoughtful note, not effusive or hot blathering all over the page is evidence of I wrote, therefore I was, apologies to Descartes.There is distance in these writings because they are the edited product of my head and heart , a controlled closeness, not a gush of freerange consciousness, these ramblings organized and tempered because of the format; or alternatively, not by my hand at all, but collected, written by another, not me , as in graduation booklets or report cards. I can stand aside and revisit a moment I had deemed important. In deed at the time of my keeping some cherished artifact, I felt it must be stored in that kitchen drawer- the heart of my home- too precious to be tossed.
Now, I have no saw with stream of consciousness or journal writing as I believe it provides an outlet, but my issue has to do with its public publication ,and for me, the resurgence of pain it promotes that I would rather leave behind than reliving it. In contrast, this collection of memorabilia invites a revisit, a pause, a spurt of happiness.
I suppose I could be more judicious, for truly, does every luminous wrapping ribbon, whether emblazoned with the word Lindt or not, need to be saved and recycled, and what’s with the three tiny grimacing plastic chickens still in package with the heading “ Chickenrun” that my husband refused the grandkids ? Not to mention the single envelopes and shutterfly calendars whose months are described by the smiling faces of my grandchildren and their earliest forays. Long passed.
Yesterday my sister told me of a person who comes to your house and divides up “ your stuff” into piles of five, explaining one should hold an old piece of clothing and listen to hear if it speaks to you. If it does, keep it.
Well, that’s my answer, I suppose, because I still hear voices loud and clear, some even chortling with laughter.