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Stuff, Bittersweet Stuff

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stuff. We get rolled under our stuff. Never is that more apparent than when we are forced to move, or to paint a bedroom. You look at a kid's bedroom and you think, "There isn't all that much stuff in there, he's just a kid." And three days later, after you've been sitting on the floor going through the endless junk in his closet and bureau and bookcases, after you've found the tiny knit cap they plopped on his blonde head the day he was born, after you've found the two lost and expensive library books he incorporated into his bookcase and those long-lost lecture scripts you were dumb enough to put in one of his Spiderman folders, you realize that we all accumulate stuff, a bit here a bit there, until there is so much it takes three full days to sort, organize, give away, and/or toss it all.

Bill decided to give Phoebe's room a makeover, and Saturday morning waay too early, considering we had had a gig the night before, he began moving her stuff out into our living room. Liam was sad. Nobody was making over his room. So in a fit of equality, I decided to get new carpet for him as well as Phoebe. Which, I realized a little too late, meant that both of their rooms would have to be emptied. I thought it would save money to have the installers do two rooms at once. I did not fully appreciate what we were getting into. Bill worked like a dog to get Phoebe's room painted, all four walls a different bright color (!)

I'm waiting for the installers right now, and they had jolly well better show up this morning, because four days of living with two bedrooms' worth of stuff jammed into our living room has been about four days too many. It looks like something you'd see on COPS, clothes draped on everything, stacks and boxes of junk...arggggggh

and I have been bereft, inwardly wailing like a banshee wandering the moors, unable to settle when my house is upside down. It reminds me of the mood I was in when our kitchen renovation took 4 1/2 months. When I was cooking on a hotplate in the living room, all our food in boxes.

But these are the things you do when you make two more people and work them into your world. Their stuff becomes your stuff, becomes your problem to keep or dispose of. I sat on the floor doing children's book triage, separating the wheat from the chaff, smiling as I remembered stanza after stanza of those perfectly worded bits from Miss Rumphius and Goodnight Moon and The Napping House and The Polar Express and all the Beatrix Potter books and yes, Where the Wild Things Are; they are all there, now boxed and labeled in the basement, along with two big boxes full of Thomas the Tank Engine books and puzzles and three huge totes of trains and tracks. Things that served us well, things I realize with bittersweet pain that he's never going back to, not until he makes another person and works that person into his world.

And that will be all too soon.


did looking through all of those childrens books inspire you to write one? I am sure that it would be amazing! I could see something along the lines of Wendell Berry's book "Whitefoot", but about a bullfrog and a hummingbird....and in the form of a board book. I know...who has the time....I'm just sayin!

Well, of course George Carlin had a lot to say about "stuff," but I won't go there! ...but for anyone who wants to, it's here:
And I second the motion for a children's book... or 2 or 3.

If it's ok with Pheobe, I would love to see a photo of her Caribbean party room. The differently colored walls sound awesome to me! If she says no, I'll understand.

First picture, perfect.
-- LOG using LOL's account.

Hang onto as much of it as you can.
And, from time to time, revisit it, smiling or sniffing as you must.
Then imagine a day when another will join the party.
It is all good.

So true, so familiar.
So fast.

By the way, living in a rainbow house like I do, I love Phoebe's paint scheme.

As we put away the stuff of childhood, it is not only theirs we are saying goodbye to, but ours as well. Because its true, our children help to keep us young...I think thats why it feels so poignant.

What color is Liam's room?

So beautifully said.
Thank you.

I have a knot in my throat. You named the best books that I still keep and cherish.

The kitchen renov is funny. But this "stuff" is way bittersweet. I understand. After my daughter left for college two states away, I remember burying my head in a bed pillow she left behind whenever I needed to be with her. Isn't that living the best life?

I feel your pain, but alas, I can't even separate the wheat from the chaff, because to Sam, it's still ALL wheat. He was never "into" toys, and so books were his choice, always. I have thousands of them, literally. And train? Are you kidding? ALL the die cast Thomas family, most of the wood ones, and now, most ALL of the Take Along ones. I'd be cutting off his right arm if I tried to gently persuade him to part with any of it. :c)

Such a sweet photo of Liam... and yes, all too soon....

Achingly beautiful described those deep, poignant feelings so very well. In my own life, I remember when it was time for us to put the "Babar" books away - and I recall that ache of mourning combined with the joy of seeing my child growing up so beautiful and kind and strong. And ready for a world without "Babar" at bedtime.

Phoebe and Liam seem to be such spirited, gifted, beautiful children - I hope they know how cherished they are.

Thank you again - amazing post.

You can see the man he's becoming.

I agree with Kristen: write a children's book. I wasn't able to have children but remember going through my stuff when my parent's built me a new bedroom in the basement. My favorite children's book was "Five O'clock Charlie". I don't remember the author.

Posted by Anonymous October 29, 2009 at 7:01 AM

OMG, he looks so grown up from when I saw him in North Dakota 2 years ago! A handsome lad for sure!

I'm resonating with this soooo much. We just went through 45 years worth of "stuff" as my Mom is moving from the house where she's lived since I was 13 to a much smaller condo. So many of the objects bring back memories of my late father, of friends long gone, of my own adolescence ...

And the cleanout continues. Because now, in comparison to the kids' rooms and closets, all my spaces seem hopelessly cluttered. I have this "organizer" on my desk that looked like a hay shock. And I cleaned it out and miraculously all the contracts and papers in it had aged into obsolescence. Bye!
Every one in awhile you have to get out the snow shovel, or be buried.

Anony, I believe Five O'Clock Charlie was by Marguerite Henry, of the 'Misty' books. That was one of the very few of hers I never read but I remember seeing it listed inside another book as 'Other Books By'

my kids are teens now and I feel like my life is a seesaw of emotions. some days i wish they would hurry up and grow up( because i am weary of being the taskmaster) and others i wish they would slow down and stay right where they are...thank goodness i have mugsy my pug to even out my days...

Alas, the stuff never seems to end, does it? It was a sad day when our once little girl cleaned out her book cases to make room for all the pre-teen books she had been collecting. Though, I was excited to find out that she left a shelf of what I would call "classics".... the books I spent many an afternoon reading to her. She still takes them out no and then and reminisces with me about those days. What a lovely post. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

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