When my daughters left for college many years ago, I could not bring myself to repaint their rooms. She, who doesn’t paint or build, but knows how things should be done, hated the colors the girls chose and wanted them changed. But I couldn’t do it. Those colors were theirs.
I couldn’t throw out bundles of their old papers, crystals hanging on strings, marked up school books and posters plastered to the walls. I couldn’t let them go. So how is it that she expects me to take down the Christmas decorations?
It was a rare, icy, crazy, wonderful Christmas, and who knows if I or anyone for that matter will be here on the next one.
I’m not being pessimistic or morose, just realistic. There is constant talk lately about meteorites coming ever closer to the earth, some just barely missing us. The other night there was a Nature Channel story on all the volcanoes. Did you know that there are thousands of volcanoes we thought were extinct but aren’t? Yellowstone National Park, for example, is the site of a giant one. It could let loose at any time.
So it’s only natural that I just can’t let go of the fun things I have collected.
I hold onto the silliest things. In a closet upstairs I have two of my first ancient Apple computers, covered with dust. I can’t let them go. I wrote great stuff on them once. Imagine if Hemingway had given his first typewriter to Goodwill.
This, you’ll think is crazy: I have a pair of socks I brought here from Los Angeles thirty years ago. I haven’t worn them all this time of course, I just keep them in a drawer with my collection of ten watches. The socks are thin, California socks with palm trees on them I think they represent the LA I loved and miss.
Of course, it’s not the same place anymore, but I can’t let go. When I think of the tacos and the warm wind I get fuzzy.
Those memories and the socks got me through the polar vortex. When I get sad, I just take them out and hold them against my face. I’m kind of like Linus Van Pelt in “Peanuts.” I know it’s an aberration, but I deal with it. It’s not like I do it in public. I used to take them with me when we traveled but she made me stop. She has no aberrations.
The watches. I don’t even wear watches anymore. Watches are an old person’s fixation, and I’m trying desperately not to be an old person. So when someone asks me what time it is, I flash my big smart phone and hold it up. I feel so cool and young.
I have eight pairs of glasses, nine counting the pair I’m wearing and the ones on my head that I forgot about. Most of them of are old prescriptions. They’re in the drawer with the socks and the watches. Every once in a while, she will say things like, “What if something happens to you and I have to deal with all of this stuff you refuse to throw out? How will I know what to do with it?”
I tell her that everyone goes through that.
Once I suggested that if I “go first” she should arrange to go soon after. Then she can just leave all this stuff, except for the socks, for the girls to deal with. They’re young, and they’ll have more time and energy anyway. I hope they’ll just throw it all out.
I did suggest that she give the watches and the glasses, but not my socks, to a charity. I’m sure even the very needy all have socks, but there are people who need a new watch. Sometimes I don’t answer her. Sometimes I just stand there and sulk until she feels sorry for me. I’ve mastered that technique. In years of acting I’ve learned how to fill my eyes with tears. Then she hugs me and walks away, and I go back to dusting my watches. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but if the old dog is smart, he keeps the old ones in his pocket … with the socks.
J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.