Monday, November 10, 2008

Day three hundred and fourteen ... Letting go.

This is madness.

In a little over ten days I will be granted lifelong access to my new home.

And because of this I am being forced to start consolidating and condensing the belongings I have accrued in my apartment over time. These items do not, of course, represent only that which I have amassed in the last eight years I have lived here, but, rather, it encompasses everything I have gathered since I moved to the valley almost twenty years ago. 

It's a lot of stuff, and it's an overwhelming feeling to know I have to do it regardless of whether I have actually started--which I haven't.

But, much like I try to do with everything in my life, I can try to boil it all down to an easily comprehended analogy.

The condiment bottle.

I love my mustard. I have always loved my mustard since my mother used to make me "Hot Dog Men" as a child. On more than a regular occasion, my amazing mother would take a couple of Morrison and Schiff hot dogs (never less than the best for her boy) and slice a thin sliver on each side from halfway up about two inches long. Then she would separate them in half from the bottom to the middle, and then cook them for the appropriate time. In the plumping process the carefully implemented cuts would bend away from the hot dogs, thus giving the appearance of arms and legs. Finally she would paint hair, eyes, nose, and mouth as well as a set of  buttons to a stylish imaginary suit jacket down the middle, and a belt and cuffs to boot. She did this fancy detailing using a long, stiff, metal rod which had a round, red, plastic ring at one end. I'm sure it had some otherwise legitimate use in the kitchen; for me, it just brought my Hot Dog Men to life.

This is one more reason, in a seemingly endless list of reasons, that I can claim Judith Ann Johnson to be one of the most wonderful people in the world.

But like I was saying, I love my mustard and it shows. I have no less than three plastic containers with about the same three tablespoons worth of product left; I can't throw them out. They have potential. They have purpose still. They provide me with a sense of security that if I someday need an emergency blast of French's that I will have it on hand; I just have to coax it properly.

Security: it comes in a limitless form which can adapt to ones requirements in a seemingly microscopic amount of time.

And it's the same thing with my shampoo: how many bottles have to accrue on the valuable real estate of my shower ledges before I make the plunge and put them in the garbage? But extending the life of soap and its myriad counterparts is a subject that deserves more attention than I would ever expect anyone to offer me, so I'll move on.

Back in May I wrote about my affinity for collecting cardboard boxes and my method for disposing of them when they have taken up too much space or cannot be combined with another larger box. I wrote how I had a habit of keeping the boxes my products came in so as to ensure a proper return in the event of a malfunction, regardless of whether or not the warrantee had expired, making the storage less time-sensitive and merely a superfluous habit, as a quick trip to any liquor store would garner me as many boxes as I needed. 

So over the next few weeks I will need to keep this in mind as I sort through that which will make its way to my new residence, and that which will make its way to somewhere else. I haven't collected much in the way of trash, although I do have several bags of old kitchen work shirts which should just go to the dump ... but I could use them to pick up a spill, or to oil the furniture.

See what I mean?

How easy it is to conjure up importance where there was little. How our brains can dredge from the deepest recesses of our gray matter the rules for retention of objects we had all but forgotten we possessed. How we can't often find what we need when we are looking for it, yet we can construe needs for things we never use but can't face parting with.

And if we can't use it, there's always someone--real or potentially real--in our databases who can.

And so, I will be throwing away more than a few almost empty bottles of mustard, ketchup, relish, mayonnaise, sweet soy sauce, molasses, and curry paste. I will send their miniscule contents to the trash and their trusty shells to the recycling station. I will do this because they have done their time in my possession proving their imperviousness to mold, microbes, and odors. And the memories involved with each bottle are so many that they blend into each other and just make me happy they were involved.

My mother, before she left this world, wrote in a spiral notebook her wishes for the destination of much of her personal property. These were done in the form of a letter to each of the people who she was leaving these gifts to. One of these letters was for me, and I was given it on my birthday in 2007. She was denied the time to transfer the letters to proper stationary--my mom being one of the few people I knew, or currently know, who enjoyed using bright, colorful purposeful paper for her correspondence. She never personally owned a computer, and she typed her lengthier correspondence on an electric Smith-Corona--complete with White-Out. But she enjoyed most the use of a pen and paper, incorporating her deliberate, slow, intricately curvy, cursive handwriting one cautious well thought out letter at a time, transferring words from electrical impulse to a practical, universal medium, much like an inhale connects with the resulting exodus of air: effortless yet essential.

My dear aunt took these pages and transferred them to beautiful stationary: light sky blue with cumulous nimbus on top with a rainbow cutting across the left quarter of the page. I can only tell it was transferred by the slight lines from the original paper, and the occasional crossing out and correcting of an error that would have never escaped her possession to be seen by its intended recipient; life was too short to allow mistakes you could correct.

One page contained several passages which I have yet to decipher if they are original, or a excerpt from any number of the thousands of books my mother devoured over her lifetime. I have plans to reveal each one in time. However this post I will include one which I feel sums up how not only her, but my aunt with me, and subsequently myself, alone, have dealt with the passing of life into memories:

"The body is like an envelope, and the spirit within is the letter. The letter has meaning. An empty envelope is nothing."

I didn't think I was going to cry today.

I guess I can only plan so far ahead.

Thanks for reading.


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