Slice of Life Writing Challenge- March 29, 2021
What started like this…
Turned into this…
I don’t consider myself a packrat, at least not since I’ve experienced the life-changing magic of tidying up. I’ve gone through every closet, drawer, and cupboard, but somehow I missed the cedar chest given to me by the little old lady next door to our cottage. She said if I could get it down from her attic, it was mine. I taught myself how to refinish furniture at age fourteen on the chest and have been stuffing memories inside ever since. Some of its contents have changed over the years, but the things that remain still have their grip on my heart for one reason or another.
The embroidered dish towels for each day of the week reminding me how Grandma Walk taught the chores for each day. Now that I’m older I know they were used as a diversion to my homesickness that disappeared once we began the chore of the day. Grandpa was a quick study and inserted his own “chores” on those less desirable days like mending. I learned how to iron handkerchiefs on Tuesdays. I learned how to fish on Wednesdays.
Wash on Monday
Iron on Tuesday
Mend on Wednesday
Market on Thursday
Clean on Friday
Bake on Saturday
Rest on Sunday.
Lying in corpse pose on my mat are the Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls handmade by my mom. The pair rested on my bed comfortably for many years before getting stuffed into the back of my closet when I hit junior, replaced by puffy letter pillows spelling my name. The couple resurfaced again after my daughter was born, but with little interest on her part. I guess she didn’t realize her grandma had sewn the dolls the same year she made my Halloween costume so I looked like Raggedy Ann and won the school costume contest. My daughter will appreciate me saving her stuffed Corduroy and the cassette tape of her retelling the entire story in her precious two-year-old voice unable to pronounce the word escalator.
Forty-six years I’ve held onto the stuffed kangaroo I received from my dad after I had my appendix removed. I think he felt awful about having to buckle me in the car and drive me to the hospital. Next to Corduroy is the hand puppet I bought with my own vacation money in Montreal and I’m transported back to the cobblestone shopping street where it was purchased. My hand no longer fits inside the way my eight-year-old hand did.
Folded neatly there is a pile of old football jerseys and my high school letter sweater earned for playing on the tennis team. I’ve been using the mantra my coach drilled into my head my whole life since —P.M.A. Positive mental attitude! The jerseys have worked their way out of hiding one by one when the kids wore them for school spirit days. They enjoyed wearing them so they could hear stories of their dad’s days on the football field catching his now famous “bounce pass” during the Wisconsin Illinois game in ‘82.
There’s a stack of Make A Plate melamine plates my kids made along with the ceramic photo cups with I Love You Daddy and I Love You Mommy. Tucked in the middle of the stack there’s a plate for camping and a Go Pack Go dish for the Packer parties we use to host. I heard my son Tim making breakfast and brought his “Timmy” plate out for him to use. He chose not to and gave me the look. He’s 20 years old.
My daughter’s entire literacy journey is delicately jammed into a plastic bag. Boy! She had beautiful handwriting in first grade. I spent an hour reading through her journals and stories of our camping trips, Christmas traditions, and the life cycle of the many Monarch butterflies we raised and released. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards declaring we are the best mom and dad ever. A snapshot of how welcoming a baby brother nearly ten years after being an only made her life complete and she could move onto the next mission—convincing us to get a puppy.
There’s the vintage Trundle Bundle sleeper set I went home from the hospital in with my baby blanket, stiff and fraying from all the years. I can’t believe I’m using the word vintage for something that belonged to me, but I looked it up. I have vintage stuff!
I set my drishti on other vintage items including my grandparent’s wedding photo, with them both looking so stoic, and if I must say, a bit too serious for such a happy occasion. My grandparents were married for over 66 years. I breathed in and out smiles and sighs as I leafed through other photos of times past. There I was with my siblings, me in my corrective shoes, and my husband posing so angelic for his annual Olin Mills photograph. There were wedding invitations and obituaries yellowing over time, a bold headline, AMERICA UNDER TERROR ATTACK, announcing the day of disaster on September 11, 1991, and a special Collector’s Issue of People magazine’s tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales.
It’s hard to say what goes into one’s decision about what to save and what to toss. The sentimental stuff is always the hardest. According to Marie Kondo, “truly precious memories will never vanish even if you discard things associated with them.”
I guess I can toss the random snow globes I haven’t put out in at least ten years. I suppose I can wash and start using the crystal vase my daughter won in a golf tournament. Or better yet, add it to the pile waiting for her. The stack of wrinkled artwork can go too. I’ve framed the keepers already.
As the memorabilia filled up the space on my mat, I felt the same happy brain waves I feel during my actual yoga practice. It helped create space for my creative mind. So, if you’re unable to think of what to write about or how to proceed, just roll out your mat.