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Farewell to Chaos

Sunday, December 22, 2019

You find the darnedest things when you do a clean out. I found this note down in the fish tank zone. Studied it for a few seconds. Then it came to me. This Post-it came with a beautiful ruby-throated hummingbird, grounded by a window strike. I named her Lily and kept her in a 20 gallon long glass tank, set up for a handicapped hummingbird, for part of a year before her condition deteriorated to the point where her quality of life was unacceptably low. Oh, how I loved her, and how she broke my heart. Flightless hummingbirds are a rough ride for their would-be saviors. By the way, I didn’t wind up needing to rub her head to get her to eat from the feeder. :)

This shirt came to me from the estate of Lois Darling. I’ve never taken it off the cardboard, because I’m so charmed at the thought of a shirt (1960’s size 16, junior, which corresponds to about a 6 in adult) that has never been worn, that has marginally socially acceptable decorations, that is frozen in time. Turner Togs, wash’n’wear!

As noted before, the animus of my kids’ favorite toys, especially stuffed animals, keeps me from tossing many of them. These were the winners, who all went into a big cardboard box for safekeeping. The Airedale was especially intriguing to Curtis. He kept sniffing its butt and muzzle, unable to believe it wasn’t real. He liked the dachshund Beanie too. The stuffed skunk evoked an interested reaction from this twice-sprayed dog. 

Promise me you won’t get rid of these, Mether.
  I promise, Curtis.
As the cleansing progressed, Curtis spent more and more time in the basement with me. I would turn around and find him there, tail waving, ready to give me a good wallerin’ hug. Not that I’d need it...

Curtis Loew is very gentle with his toys. He hasn’t so much as frayed one of them since February. So I felt confident letting him carry my Good Cat around. I don’t remember who gave me Good Cat, but we called it that because it was white, so it was too “good” to go outside with me. I was forever outside as a kid, so I needed rules like that. Curt wanted to take Good Cat outside, but the rules Ida made still hold. 

Good Cat went in a box with First Bear and Woof Woof. Somewhere there’s a photo of Ida’s mom, Frieda Ruigh, holding First Bear when she came to our house in South Dakota to meet me as a newborn infant. I’m not sure who gave me Woof Woof but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Frieda. I’m pretty sure she brought me Good Cat, as well. I discern her taste in all of them. 

I packed them away, together, so they wouldn’t be lonely. Some things you can’t throw away.

Meanwhile, the garage was getting fuller and fuller. Load after load grunted up the hill in the garden cart. Trash to the right, good stuff to the left. 

I was working toward my deadline of 9 AM December 4, when ReStore would come with their biggest van to haul away the things people might be able to use, or would want to collect. 

Here they’re loading Bill’s beer-brewing equipment, which he used exactly twice, then stored for a couple of decades, along with dozens and dozens of Grolsch bottles. The guys knew someone who’d want it all. That made me very happy. Good bye, enjoy your second life!

After the huge van left with all the good stuff, my intrepid junk haulers Dave (here) and Bob (below) packed the rest in two pickups and a flatbed trailer for runs to recycling and dump. 

I filled my Subaru, and not for the first time, with stuff that wouldn’t fit in the trucks. I still fill it pretty much every time I go to town with donations for Goodwill.

Bob packed everything so carefully, almost lovingly. But in a few hours, they too were gone. 

Bye, futon mattress that I couldn’t lift by myself. You’ll weigh down the load.
I stood and watched the last of that junk make its way down the driveway. What a feeling!
Goodbye, junk. Goodbye, for good.

Hello, garage I can park in again.

I took Curtis for a walk at sunset, feeling lighter all over. There was still at least a week of work to do to clean, but now I could move around enough to do it. 

The sky was on fire. So were all my bones and joints. It was a good sore, an exhausted, happy sore. I was so glad I did this while I still physically could. I did it alone, because nobody could have helped me sort and mull and mourn; nobody could work through the detritus of 27 years and three other lives but me, the one who loved them all. 


You are inspiring on every level, Julie. Cheers to a new year and your new life!

Good work! My middle son had a bear that came with a wind up music box. The box went after awhile and so did the poor critter’s plush coat. Son would dig stuffing out of it during naps until the mends looked like a multicolored vest. Bear got forgotten with all those growing up things, but I kept him. Gave him back the night before son’s wedding. There wasn’t enough of bear left for grand kids, just loved to death.

Three hearty huzzahs for the whole effort; three more for writing about it; and three more still for spending this holiday season in Spain with the kids and keeping us all agog with the photos on Instagram. A blessed Winter Solstice to you all.

Not many people could write about cleaning out a basement, and manage to make me laugh, cry, and be enthralled. I feel like I was right there with you, Julie! Such poignant memories.

Posted by mimimanderly December 22, 2019 at 5:16 PM

Love, love, love this thread! I can feel the weight being lifted. You reminded me of two baby dolls I had, Stephanie with the Brillo Pad hair, and Angie, a beautiful little black baby. Both had soft bodies and were so lovable. My no-nonsense mom wanted me to choose just one to take on vacation with us. She lost that battle. I still remember imagining the disappointment and hurt the other one would feel if left behind. What a great lesson. Thanks, Julie, for all the inspiration over the years!

I've followed your photos and comments about retting out on FB. I've found them both compelling and inspiring. I love this blog post, especially about the stuffed animals.
My husband started purging and reorganizing when he retired 12 years ago. I've been slower to follow his lead. However, You've inspired my mightily.
Thanks for being exactly who you are!
Carol Eklund

Very touching. I still have baa-baa, 63 years later. We both look worse for wear :)

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