Throwaway Rosh Hashanah

This may be the least festive holiday I’ve had in years. But once I went to London, there wasn’t any other way to schedule this, and oh, well, there’s Yom Kippur to look forward to (cough).

I finished the cleaning phase today and loaded up my car and I’m on the road, so far with only one bruise, one papercut and one totally annihilated fingernail.

What I’m hanging on to as this holiday’s gain is the list of things I’ve jettisoned. The corner bedroom is now almost completely empty. The nieces can visit and stay overnight. The middle bedroom is mostly empty (except for the photograph archive). Dad’s seven-year-old computer is backed up onto a new all-in-one, and he has mastered the basic operations of Windows 8.1 to use email, Internet, and word processing. All of the old computer equipment is in a bin for the next counter recycling day along with a lot of other e-waste. The twenty-year-old phone is also replaced and he has a new answering machine message that’s just him. The linen closet is partially sorted and souvenir materials for the quilts the nieces are getting for Christmas are in a box for the quilter. All of mom’s clothes are gone except for one box that’s packed away. Her wedding dress and the dress she made for my brother’s wedding are preserved and stored away. Her fur coat has been passed on to a new owner. All of the kitchen cabinets were emptied and about 2/3 of their contexts have been thrown away or donated. The big freezer is defrosted and almost empty; the small freezer has also been cleaned; all of the old food in the house is gone. The plants dad couldn’t keep up with have been given away and only cactuses are left. The basement is about a third clean but all of the useless paper has been recycled and all of the extra furniture has been donated or given away. The doors are back on the pole barn and another outbuilding is painted.

I tossed about a dozen boxes of my own things (don’t ask me why graded homework from 1981 was still in the corner bedroom; I don’t remember saving it, but I found my brother’s as well). I have about half the clothes I owned in May, having finally discarded the sizes I lost in 2011-13. All the rest of them are clean. My car is only about two thirds as full tonight as it was when I came home. Books I didn’t need have been donated or sold.

I find this excruciating.

One piece of the whole Crucible story I haven’t published yet has to do with my passport. After a frantic search for it in June, I found my expired passport today — in the trunk of my car, in a paper bag with two novels, the passport, and a bunch of dirty clothes. I stuffed it in there in August 2013, when I was traveling from home back to work. I needed to find the passport earlier this year and couldn’t and the fact that I couldn’t created this ridiculous hassle. I never would have looked in that bag, though; I wasn’t touching it because the day that I packed it was such a horrible day and the main thing I associated with the bag was the bad feelings about the fight I had with dad on the day I decamped. The bag’s now unpacked, the clothing washed, the novels donated, the passport tucked away as it’s still an official document for employment purposes and it carries the record of all my foreign residences for a decade.

All these things — the things hold the memories and I’m afraid to resurrect the memories and yet the things continue to accumulate. If I throw them away, I throw away the memories and sometimes I’d like to but first I have to revisit them and so often I would rather not revisit them.

Sometimes this summer when dad and I would fight about giving away this or that thing, I’d find myself saying, you know, we’re not throwing away mom or our memories of mom, we’re just getting rid of this thing that we don’t need and takes up space. Dad would always growl and withdraw — and you know, maybe he’s right. Maybe if you throw away the thing that provokes the memory you weaken the memory.

Some things accumulate memory differently than others. The reason we had that antiquated computer (I swear, the harddrive was probably run by little hamsters who lived inside the tower) was that mom was so attached to it and so reluctant to buy a new machine. But all either of us felt was relief that the machine was replaced and his new one is so much faster and better (and easier on his eyes). But we had a knock-down, dragout over a box of Good Housekeeping magazines that I wanted to toss and he wanted to keep. They don’t seem any more personal — but somehow they are.

I kept telling him — mom is in this house even if we got rid of every single thing she owned.

~ by Servetus on September 26, 2014.

19 Responses to “Throwaway Rosh Hashanah”

  1. Wow. That is one long list of achievements. Congrats on that. It is so hard to tidy up and throw out stuff. It takes so much time, because it invariably leads to stopping and reminiscing as you discover old things that you had forgotten. But maybe that is also the consolation prize that is attached to the parting with old things? You get to remember one last time before you ditch. I understand the reluctance to throw away the prompters of memories. And yet, the same memory may yet be prompted by a different item. Or by the memory of throwing the item out? Or maybe you have just opened space to make new memories – in the house and in your brain?
    Wishing you a safe journey – in your memory and in your car!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Safe journey and happy landings. You know your mom is “in the house” even if it is empty. And you know she is with you, even if you go far away. May happy memories of her make you smile, and accompany you on this new adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, you’d got a lot of work done – another proof for the brave woman you are!
    Take care and travel safe!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Szerokiej Drogi !!! Take your time and travel safe, ((Servetus))


  5. You know, I do love me a good purging. But these objects (the ones your father struggles to release) sound like they are ‘relics’ to him. He may not be as conscious of their sacred role, but he’s certainly aware of his attachment to them.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong to press (as I say, I do love a good purging!!), but people can infuse objects with energy and power… in your father’s case, an associated memory with the object that is significant to him (it’s like a photograph to him, prompting clear recollection of the memory). It’s always best when one can clear away the filler while keeping the objects of true significance, of course.

    It also sounds like you made an incredible amount of progress overall and to all this I say to you: Bravo!!! 🙂


    • The issue was that parts of the house were starting to be unliveable — it wasn’t my desire to separate him from his stuff. He acknowledged this but knew he couldn’t get rid of the stuff.


  6. I have moved so many times in my life (changing cities and even countries) and left so many significant and dearest to me things in the process so I learned to leave without them. As to the memories, I lost my beloved husband twelve years ago and have moved since then, and there are few things left of him (except books and some small things), and my life has changed considerably since then, but he is in almost all my dreams (and they are good dreams always) even if I don’t think about him for days or weeks… as if the memory of him is always here present at the back of my mind.
    Good luck and safe journey!

    Liked by 1 person

    • How wonderful that he appears so regularly in your dreams!

      I was thinking about this question — dad hasn’t moved since 1971; I have moved twenty times in the last twenty five years. I wonder which of us has greater fatigue over eliminating things? I think I am starting to have a hard time because I move so often, but I am not sure …


      • I can’t tell what is harder though sometimes I really envy people who have lived in one place for many years, without necessity to eliminate things, having the same circle of friends and acquaintances. Well, everyone has his own way to survive and move on…


  7. That is a lot of very hard things to do, but you’ve done them, big virtual hug! Some things are tied to memories but most of them are within us and we carry them with us, hopefully mostly the good ones stay long term. Safe journey and hop you can settle in quickly and comfortably x


  8. Thanks for all of the good wishes!


  9. You inspire me. I can’t believe you’ve accomplished all of that in such a short time. I have a very hard time forcing myself to give/throw things away. It’s all tied up with memory (and loss) for me and I don’t really understand it completely. Many of the memories are not particularly happy.

    You really are an amazing person 🙂 Hugs and wishes for a safe journey.


  10. So hard to let go! I’m in a move myself, and I worry what I will need, what my children will want, what will remain for them after I am dead and gone. I have talismans from my predecessors, and I’ve lost some of them as well. In the end, it is all just stuff. But what a crazy world! 2nd rate movie stars will have a physical legacy long after anyone who knew my grandfathers are not around anymore. Those were great men.


    • I spent a lot of time wondering what to do with objects of sentimental value that belonged to people who are now mostly forgotten. My great-grandmother’s beloved serving platter — I remember her, but my nieces don’t, and the object in itself is not precious or beautiful (I come from a family that joined the middle classes in my parents’ generation). I don’t have children; I can’t imagine my nieces wanting these things or associating them with anything. But I can’t toss them either.


  11. The amount you have accomplished boggles the mind. I hope you settle in quickly and have a chance to rest up, mind and body, before you start work. Servetus = Wonder Woman. =)


  12. Safe travels to your new home and job.

    I still have some of my dads clothes in the truck of my car since he moved into the newly build nursing home in I think 2010. I also have two totes of clothes in my garage from when he moved into the nursing home in 2007. Some day I will get around to cleaning them out. I didn’t take any clothes home when he pasted on, I told the nursing home to give them to anyone who needed them.


  13. Thanks for all the good wishes, compliments, observations — I’d been feeling like I hadn’t done enough, but this helps.


  14. […] Last year. […]


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